Eunomia · November 2005


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Brent Anderson has unfortunately linked to a post by one Johan Norberg in which the tolerance of the Great Mughal Akbar, whose career is described fairly enough in this article, is played up for all it is worth. Mr. Anderson gave his post the rather silly title, “Akbar taught tolerance to an intolerant Europe.” He did no such thing–he was the heir of a dynasty of conquest who chose not to antagonise the religious sentiments of those whom his grandfather had conquered. That was a better fate for the conquered than they would have had if Timur had gotten ahold of them, but let’s not forget that we are talking about one religious group enjoying privileged status over another. We should have no illusions about the Mughal Empire simply because it was one of the less oppressive and more culturally creative Islamic states in history. Whatever we may think of him (and as an individual I find Aurangzeb somewhat sympathetic), Aurangzeb is far more representative of Islamic traditions of rulership. If the Mughal Empire fell apart because of either his excessive warfare or his zeal for imposing Islamic law or both, his is the reign that will better show us what a self-consciously Islamic ruler of largely non-Muslim peoples will accomplish.

Akbar’s “tolerance,” had it not been for his own religious sentiments, could be put down to so much pragmatism: he needed the Rajputs to maintain control of northern India and saw no gain in insulting their traditions. I would not be so cynical as to deny that Akbar genuinely believed in his rather amorphous universalism, but it is quite another thing to attribute his eccentricities to a tradition for which he had little use.

Had Philip II had the insurmountable problem of being part of a ruling religious minority in a fractious country he might have taken a more pragmatic approach to religious dissidence (but if he was a conscientious Catholic ruler, as indeed he was, he could not have seriously ignored the problem of heresy, not least since it touched upon his authority). Two other things should be kept in mind when comparing post-reconquista Spain and Mughal India: the Spanish were still busily reclaiming and reordering a country that had been violently invaded on several occasions by Muslim armies, and the entire Muslim presence in India, including that of the Mughals, was the result of violent invasions from the conquest of Sind to Mahmud Ghazni to Babur. There is a pattern here that tells us something about Islam and the sorts of people that Islam attracts, and it does not help claims of Islamic “tolerance,” much less peace.

Mr. Norberg cited this quote from Akbar:

As most men are fettered by bonds of tradition, and by imitating the ways followed by their fathers, ancestors, relatives and acquaintances, everyone continues, without investigating the arguments and reasons, to follow the religion in which he was born and educated, thus excluding himself from the possibility of ascertaining the truth, which is the noblest aim of the human intellect. Therefore we associate at convenient seasons with learned men of all religions, thus deriving profit from their exquisite discourses and exalted aspirations.

Now try telling the average Sunni Muslim that he cannot ascertain truth, and that the Sunnah is preventing him from this. I doubt he will respond with an exquisite discourse. As the article makes clear, Akbar possessed his ‘liberal’ virtues by being a very poor Muslim by any standard of Islamic orthodoxy you’d care to name. It would be like citing Frederick the Great as an exemplar of what it is to be Christian and what it means to have a Christian as a ruler–meaningless. Akbar’s syncretism and desire for the sulh-i-kul, the universal peace, were idiosyncratic departures of one man from the broad sweep of Islamic tradition.

One can look through Islamic history and cherry-pick other notable individuals, such as Ibn al-Arabi, whose potentially pantheistic and exceedingly ecumenist spiritual tradition of wahdat al-wujud (oneness of Being) had some influence on Indian Sufism and through it, perhaps, on some aspect of the Islamic culture to which Akbar was exposed in India. Wahdat al-wujud could theoretically provide the basis for a very tolerant (and tremendously vacuous) kind of Islam–except for the fact that it is a mystical deviation from the major foundational teachings of the religion. Now, how did this influence come about? Well, ibn al-Arabi had to flee to Iran (he was originally from the then not-so-tolerant Murcia under Almohad rule) to escape persecution for what were manifestly heretical and pantheistic beliefs, and from there these doctrines filtered into some of the Sufi orders of India. Far more influential on Indian Islam and later Sufism as a whole was the contrary tradition of wahdat al-shuhud, which gained expression and prominence in the life and work of the more orthodox Naqshbandi Sufi and supposed Mujaddid, Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi, a contemporary of Akbar’s son, Jahangir. The point is simply this: Akbar’s brief experiment with syncretism and “tolerance” was possible because he was an idiosyncratic absolute ruler whose fancies were ‘tolerated’ by his subjects because they could not stop him, but the vast majority of actual believers, Hindu and Muslim alike, ultimately wanted nothing to do with this abrogation of tradition.

Apocryphal stories of a similar kind have been told about Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and king of Sicily, who has sometimes been painted by his more enthusiastic biographers (I think quite wrongly and anachronistically) as a precociously modern skeptic. What few people seem to understand today is that these stories were told about Frederick II for the same reasons that he was cast as Antichist by the Popes–to discredit him and undermine his authority. What modern scholars find endearing or precocious about the occasional oddball king were usually those things the king’s enemies either invented or used to attack him. In other words, they are not usually something to be proud of.

Akbar was unusual for any time for being a man who not only believed tradition to be a burden, but who was not afraid to be known as someone who believed this. That is the privilege of the autocrat. Everyone else must work within the confines of reality. Muslims, as Muslims, are not free to follow Akbar’s path, which makes his example worse than useless in discussing Islam and religious tolerance. His example is at best the exception that proves the rule that Islam is not a religion of religious “tolerance.”

As Foxman said in his speech, “Make no mistake: We are facing an emerging Christian right leadership that intends to ‘Christianize’ all aspects of American life, from the halls of government to the libraries, to the movies, to recording studios, to the playing fields and local rooms of professional collegiate and amateur sport, from the military to SpongeBob SquarePants.” ~Michelle Goldberg, Salon.com

Via The Revealer via The New Pantagruel.
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In recent months, the tempo of American bombing seems to have increased. Most of the targets appear to be in the hostile, predominantly Sunni provinces that surround Baghdad and along the Syrian border. As yet, neither Congress nor the public has engaged in a significant discussion or debate about the air war.

The insurgency operates mainly in crowded urban areas, and Air Force warplanes rely on sophisticated, laser-guided bombs to avoid civilian casualties. These bombs home in on targets that must be “painted,” or illuminated, by laser beams directed by ground units. “The pilot doesn’t identify the target as seen in the pre-brief”—the instructions provided before takeoff—a former high-level intelligence official told me. “The guy with the laser is the targeteer. Not the pilot. Often you get a ‘hot-read’ ”—from a military unit on the ground—“and you drop your bombs with no communication with the guys on the ground. You don’t want to break radio silence. The people on the ground are calling in targets that the pilots can’t verify.” He added, “And we’re going to turn this process over to the Iraqis?” ~Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker

Maintaining an American security presence in the region, not to mention withdrawing forces from Iraq, will involve many complicated problems, military as well as political. Such an endeavor, one would hope, will be handled by a team different from — and more competent than — the one presently in charge of the White House and Pentagon.

For misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C sent his legions into Germany and lost them, Bush deserves to be impeached and, once he has been removed from office, put on trial along with the rest of the president’s men. If convicted, they’ll have plenty of time to mull over their sins. ~Martin van Creveld, Forward

Via Matt Barganier at Antiwar Blog.

Even forgetful Americans must remember that the only reason we went to war is because the President and his advisors assured us that they did not merely think, they knew that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and were able to identify his mobile chemical labs. Since they were wrong, they were lying when they said they knew. It is as simple as that. ~Thomas Fleming

Eleven days ago, Jonah Goldberg wrote a shining example of what passes for “moral clarity” in the world of Bush loyalists. Basically, presidents who lie for the right reasons will be excused in the eyes of historians and later generations, and Goldberg says that if Bush lied he might likewise escape future censure. Yet the fact of the matter is that if what FDR did had been known publicly at the time he would have readily been impeached for abusing the power of his office, deceiving the public and Congress, and committing the government to war illegally. This would have been a good thing–America would be more of a free country today had it happened, the President would be more like a consul and less of an Augustus, and Americans would not be dying in truly useless foreign wars. Whatever the outcome of WWII without our involvement, America would be better off today had we never been involved. Every American ought to grow up learning to execrate the man who buried the Republic. That it is a sort of modern consensus that his crimes were necessary and his deceit justifiable shows us how far we are from the spirit of our great-grandparents’ America.

FDR should have been locked away for what remained of his miserable life. At the very least, he should have been driven from office, his name as loathsome to the ears of Americans as the name Caesar was to our ancestors. That is the only healthy response of a republican to his crimes and deceit. Because Mr. Bush lied and knew he lied, as Dr. Fleming has correctly said, he ought to be treated in just this way.

Faced with the possibility of presidential lying (remember that phrase from a few years back?) on a matter of national security, Goldberg evinces all the pathetic sycophancy of a royal panegyrist without any of the associated rhetorical ability. The Goldbergs of the world deserve presidents like George Bush–and so do we, as long as we tolerate their crimes. The difference between kings and elected autocrats is that kings at least put some store by their honour and reputation, perhaps because their subjects put more store by personal integrity than we do. They might lie for the sake of some policy, but their courtiers would never openly praise the virtue of the king’s deceit.

Hat tip to Gene Healy.

The point? The heroic Iraqi citizens have traveled a more dangerous road toward democracy more rapidly then anyone ever expected, making that another part of the “failed war plan,” I assume. Can we agree that it’s great for Iraq, the Middle East and for us? Or perhaps you can’t share this enthusiasm because you hate the Bushies so much that a part of you hopes the elections fail.

But if you agree that this march toward democracy is excellent progress, you might wonder, as I do: Why is the criticism of the Iraq war ramping up at this exact moment? What good can it do the elections? If you care about 27 million Iraqis tasting freedom for the first time, wouldn’t you do everything you can to make those elections a rousing success, instead of making Iraqis wonder whether the Americans supporting their aspirations would high-tail it out of there? Leaving them, like we did in the gulf war, only to be slaughtered. With Americans in a growing brawl over whether Iraqi freedom is worth the price, who could blame the Iraqis for throwing in the towel and not voting?

Worse, leaving freedom-loving Iraqis to twist in the wind also leaves us without a coherent strategy for fighting the war on terror. President Bush’s larger strategy goals always have been well-known (contrary to his critics’ ill-informed attacks), and you could reasonably disagree with them. But few, if any, have explained how immediate troop withdrawal would contribute to a new and better strategy for fighting Islamic fanatics in their jihad against their own people and us. Pulling our troops just over the horizon to Kuwait to constitute a “quick strike” force, as Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) suggests, won’t, because our presence anywhere in Islamic lands is what helps fuel the fanatics’ violent hatred. ~Dennis Byrne, The Chicago Tribune

In spite of his best efforts, Mr. Byrne has hit upon something. Rep. Murtha’s plan isn’t sufficient for the long term for the very reasons Byrne points: “our presence anywhere in Islamic lands is what helps fuel the fanatics’ violent hatred.” Given that admission, it should be obvious to Byrne why a reasonably rapid extrication from the Near East is best for us and for the sake of undermining the appeal of jihadis, which would benefit America and those living in the Near East.

As for the election, it may go off more or less without a hitch, and Iraq may get its elected government. This sort of government may last an entire decade or two, but it will eventually fail or deform into something every bit as tyrannical as what it has replaced. The elections on Dec. 15 will not have made the war worthwhile, nor will they have proven anything about the Iraqis’ capacity for self-government. Any people can freely cast votes and demand things from the government (which is the best case scenario for a ‘working’ democracy in Iraq)–look at Latin America. That does not prevent demagogues and authoritarians from rising to power, and it does not prevent abuses of power. No one could reasonably confuse such successful “democracy” with good government or a desirable political order.

In any event, supposing that Iraqis are now committed to their new government and their “freedom” (and since, according to Mr. Bush, all people yearn to breathe free and so on, they must be committed to freedom), what is the need for Americans to continue risking their lives for the sake of something to which the Iraqis have already dedicated themselves? If they’re so terribly dedicated, so genuinely committed, it shouldn’t matter what follows an American withdrawal–the Iraqi spring, so to speak, ought to be unstoppable.

Unless, of course, Iraqis aren’t actually all that committed or interested in the sort of government we have given them. This is to reveal the lie of the democratists–the lie that abstract “freedom” and the practise of voting are so dear to people everywhere and that they profoundly desire it. In fact, it is fair to say that most people everywhere desire a reasonable degree of security from criminals, peace in the streets and the orderly conduct of affairs. Most people have never dared, with good reason, to hope for much more than that. They could do without paeans to freedom and the veneration of voting booths with their implicit affirmation of individual powerlessness.

Byrne refers to withdrawal being an “unconscionable betrayal.” Who is doing the betraying? Mr. Bush may have promised Iraqis the sun and the moon, but that should not tie the hands of our future policy. Even among the war supporters the invasion was never principally a social engineering project to make Iraq into a democratic state–this was the slop encouraged by the ideologues, the speechwriters who liked to infuse some idealistic rhetoric into the question and the propagandists who wanted to win over some symbolic liberal supporters. For most of “Red America,” this was a war for our security. That war has long since been over. Many scores of American soldiers have died, and many thousands have been wounded since then, and the people have become increasingly fed up with the indefinite and aimless nature of the campaign.

It is because the War Party cannot make American security a credible part of the argument for continuing the war that Americans are growing weary of the conflict. Even the “finish the job” sentiment has been tapped out by the growing popular realisation that the “job” we went there to do was finished before it started. The invasion of Iraq has already been an astonishing and unconscionable betrayal of the national interest of this country, a moral abomination and a contemptuous mockery of her fundamental law. Undoing those mistakes ought to be the priority of every American.

But if there is an ounce of truth in the notion that George Bush seriously proposed the destruction of al-Jazeera, and was only dissuaded by the Prime Minister, then we need to know, and we need to know urgently. We need to know what we have been fighting for, and there is only one way to find out.

The Attorney General’s ban is ridiculous, untenable, and redolent of guilt. I do not like people to break the Official Secrets Act, and, as it happens, I would not object to the continued prosecution of those who are alleged to have broken it. But we now have allegations of such severity, against the US President and his motives, that we need to clear them up.

If someone passes me the document within the next few days I will be very happy to publish it in The Spectator, and risk a jail sentence. The public need to judge for themselves. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. If we suppress the truth, we forget what we are fighting for, and in an important respect we become as sick and as bad as our enemies. ~Boris Johnson

It is rather quaint that Mr. Johnson imagines that “what we are fighting for” in Iraq has some sort of friendly relationship with truth, and that suppressing truth would somehow compromise the high and noble principles advanced by invading a country without provocation. After all, if aggression and unprovoked killing throughout an entire country are acceptable, why worry about dishonesty or a cover-up over something as insignificant as plotting to attack a few foreign journalists?

But give Mr. Johnson some credit–he does find using white phosphorus and torture to be regrettable, and he would be a bit unnerved if the President had indeed desired to blow up al-Jazeera. But would he continue to support the unjust war that precipitated all these things? Most likely, yes.

In truth, Britain is now a deeply divided land where suspicion, intolerance and aggression cast their shadow over urban areas. This sorry situation has been created by a deliberate act of public policy. For the past three decades, in response to waves of mass immigration, the civic institutions of Britain have eagerly implemented the ideology of multiculturalism. Instead of promoting a cohesive British identity, they have encouraged immigrant communities to cling to the traditions and languages of their countries of origin. The emphasis is on upholding ethnic and cultural differences rather than achieving assimilation.

This is in stark contrast to France, which has taken a colour-blind approach to immigration, with newcomers expected to adapt to the culture of the host nation. The ban on Muslim girls wearing the hijab or headscarf in schools is a classic example of the French model.

Britain has moved in exactly the opposite direction. The diversity enthusiasts want to celebrate every culture but their own. In the self-flagellating climate of modern Britain, the nation’s traditions are increasingly regarded as reactionary and prejudiced. Britain is fast replacing nationhood with a hierarchy of victimhood, with different ethnic groups living in conflict, each trumpeting its own sense of grievance. Age-old liberties, such as freedom of speech, are disappearing; a play in Birmingham was recently closed down because a mob of Sikhs threatened to destroy the theatre, claiming to be offended by the content of the production.

Meanwhile, the endless British accommodation of Islamic extremism, in the name of racial tolerance, has allowed terrorism to flourish in our midst. According to one recent survey, 13 per cent of British Muslims support home-grown terrorism, a terrifying thought given that there are 1.6 million Muslims in Britain.

Multiculturalism is not the road that France should go down. Bomb-scarred Britain proves that integration is not achieved by exacerbating racial division and institutional self-hatred. ~Leo McKinstry, The Australian

Mr. McKinstry’s point is well taken, and it is certainly the case that assimilationist policies generally make more sense that willful encouragement of non-assimilation and ghettoisation now taking place in Britain and the United States. The mistake here (and it is no surprise that this column is an excerpt from a Weekly Standard article), aside from ignoring the cultivation of multiculturalism in France over the past two decades, is to believe that assimilationist policies can accommodate and absorb mass immigration of any kind.

Leaving aside for a moment the question of whether Muslim immigrants are truly assimilable in a Western society (I think not), and also momentarily leaving aside the reality that many of the immigrants and their children in France have never had any desire to assimilate or integrate, there is no question of real integration in France’s case where differences of race and culture are officially held to be simply irrelevant rather than significant problems to be addressed by any immigration policy. Unbridled confidence in complete egalitarianism is no better than its demented son, multiculturalism, and has equally appalling results in the real world. One suspects that France has not suffered an outrage like that of the July London bombings probably more because of the greater competence of French security and police forces than because of the relative success of French social policies.

G K Chesterton is often credited with observing: “When a man ceases to believe in God, he doesn’t believe in nothing. He believes in anything.” Whoever said it - he was right. We are supposed to live in a sceptical age. In fact, we live in an age of outrageous credulity.

The “death of God”, or at least the dying of the Christian God, has been accompanied by the birth of a plethora of new idols. They have multiplied like bacteria on the corpse of the Christian Church — from strange pagan cults and sects to the silly, sub-Christian superstitions of The Da Vinci Code.

It is amazing how many people take that book literally, and think it is true. Admittedly, Dan Brown, its author, has created a legion of zealous followers who believe that Jesus wasn’t crucified: he married Mary Magdalene, became the King of France, and started his own version of the order of Freemasons. Many of the people who now go to the Louvre are there only to look at the Mona Lisa, solely and simply because it is at the centre of Dan Brown’s book.

The pianist Arthur Rubinstein was once asked if he believed in God. He said: “No. I don’t believe in God. I believe in something greater.” Our culture suffers from the same inflationary tendency. The existing religions just aren’t big enough: we demand something more from God than the existing depictions in the Christian faith can provide. So we revert to the occult. The so-called occult sciences do not ever reveal any genuine secret: they only promise that there is something secret that explains and justifies everything. The great advantage of this is that it allows each person to fill up the empty secret “container” with his or her own fears and hopes. ~Umberto Eco, The Daily Telegraph

You can leave the rest of Eco’s article and be none the worse for it. What caught my eye here was the curious echo of many of the same concerns expressed by Prof. Chantal Delsol in Icarus Fallen (ISI, 2003). The similarity of some of Eco’s remarks to Delsol’s description of “black market” forms of suppressed or abandoned religion was striking. This was particularly interesting to me, as I happened to finish Icarus Fallen over the weekend, and I intend to post some remarks about it in the coming weeks. For what it is worth, she finds the major religions equally lacking, but for a different reason–it is not simply that they do not seem compelling to many modern men, but that, as Delsol sees it, they cannot possibly convey the absolute. It must follow from Delsol’s treatment of the question that no religion ever can convey “the absolute,” which is to fall back on the sorriest sort of agnosticism.

Of course, it is hardly a new insight that the most preposterous nonsense becomes the latest fashionable spirituality in ages of apostasy and rebellion against traditional spiritual authorities. It is not an accident that the fantasies of Paracelsus flourished in the Renaissance, that, as Lewis noted decades ago, the high-tide of superstition, magic and withcraft was the dawn of the modern age, or that Enlightenment rationalists idealised some very superstitious peoples on account of their chief virtue of being non-Christian. It is not only that periods of tremendous change and upheaval encourage equally startling upheavals in religious life, but that it is foremost in the realm of religious life that modernisers and reformers make their most far-reaching and destructive claims.

Eco’s example of the 19th century materialists is another case of what men will do to find meaning when they have quite consciously abandoned the ship of Faith and are thrown back on their own devices. That is not how Eco sees it, of course–all of it is absurd to him, and I suspect not in the way that Tertullian meant it when he said, “Credo quia absurdum.” It is a peculiarly modern affliction (and Eco confesses his loyalty specifically to the Enlightenment) to imagine that trust in God and His revelations is a submission to the absurd.

Rationalist objections to the “absurdity” of religion, especially Christianity, have for a long time sounded to me like the sorts of objections that frustrated schoolchildren make when they cannot immediately comprehend a difficult concept. They will say, “This subject is useless, it’s stupid, it has no value for me.” What really frustrates them (or anyone who runs up against such difficulties) is that their inability to understand reveals their own deficiencies and failures, which are never pleasant to have revealed. Little wonder that in the era when confessing the Christian Faith became essentially optional many people in what was Christendom opted out all together, chose another religion, or chose the least challenging splinters or corruptions of the Faith.

It is no different in practise from the response of students who are no longer required to study classical languages, or who are allowed to skate through their liberal arts schools with the bare minimum of training in mathematics and science, or who are allowed to ignore most of history outside some minimal requirement because they find it “boring.” When students do this, we do not say that the curriculum isn’t “big enough” for them or that the study of these things is not very important (although some on the curriculum committee may say that), but that the school has lost its nerve and largely succumbed to letting the ignorant students decide what is best for themselves. With respect to Christianity, the West reached a point long ago when it was possible to go through life without ever having to attend any “classes” or demonstrate any understanding.

It is odd that Eco should say that Westerners find that the Christian religion (or any of the others) isn’t “big enough,” when it seems to me that the hope of the rationalist and lumiere has always been to shrink existence down to what is intelligible by unaided reason. The miraculous offends him not because it is insufficient or lacking, but because it cannot be controlled or explained away. With his impoverished sense of rationality, and his diminished understanding of the profundity of human nature, the lumiere assumes that nothing can exist that he is unable to demonstrate or understand with only one of his many faculties. It is as if a man willingly blindfolded himself and chastised everyone else for talking about colour and light. Prophecy offends him not because its message is unfulfilling or untrue, but perhaps because he feels slighted that he, with all his learning and rationality, was not chosen to convey the message.

Christianity has always seemed incredible to the Jews, Greeks and moderns because its claims are, for them, excessive, possibly unseemly, always dangerous. In the lumieres’ very turning away from God, their ridicule and dismissive insults of Christianity, they unwittingly acknowledged the catholicity of the Truth and the boundless majesty of Him Whom they could not possibly approach. What they could not master or surpass, they had to belittle and mock.

Sigfrido Ranucci, who made the documentary for the RAI television channel aired two weeks ago, said that a US intelligence assessment had characterised WP after the first Gulf War as a “chemical weapon”.

The assessment was published in a declassified report on the American Department of Defence website. The file was headed: “Possible use of phosphorous chemical weapons by Iraq in Kurdish areas along the Iraqi-Turkish-Iranian borders.”

In late February 1991, an intelligence source reported, during the Iraqi crackdown on the Kurdish uprising that followed the coalition victory against Iraq, “Iraqi forces loyal to President Saddam may have possibly used white phosphorous chemical weapons against Kurdish rebels and the populace in Erbil and Dohuk. The WP chemical was delivered by artillery rounds and helicopter gunships.”

According to the intelligence report, the “reports of possible WP chemical weapon attacks spread quickly among the populace in Erbil and Dohuk. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Kurds fled from these two areas” across the border into Turkey.

“When Saddam used WP it was a chemical weapon,” said Mr Ranucci, “but when the Americans use it, it’s a conventional weapon. The injuries it inflicts, however, are just as terrible however you describe it.” ~The Independent

Mr. Ranucci’s last point is perhaps the most important. However one wants to classify it (and it does make sense, on thinking about it, to classify phosphorus as a chemical weapon), the important thing to keep in mind is that white phosphorus is an indiscriminate weapon and that it evidently was used against at least one civilian population center. If anything is a war crime, it is the use of such weapons against civilian centers. The jingoes can attempt to justify it however they like. They can invoke mitigating circumstances, the ambiguities of war and try to shift the blame back onto the enemy, but they can really only justify it by turning to the ethical redoubt of every totalitarian and tyrant: the ends justify the means.

Two government-subsidized Brussels organisations, the “intercultural youth platform” Kif Kif and the “movement against racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia” MRAX, have lodged a complaint before the Belgian judicial authorities against Filip Dewinter, a member of the Flemish regional parliament and one of the leaders of the Flemish-secessionist Vlaams Belang, which is the largest party in Belgium. They demand that Dewinter be convicted for “incitement to racist hatred” and that his party be deprived of its funding. In Belgium, political parties are almost entirely government-funded, as accepting private donations is mostly illegal.

The reason for the complaint is an interview which Dewinter says he recently gave to the New York magazine Jewish Week (and which he put on his website). When asked whether he espoused xenophobia, Dewinter replied:

“Xenophobia” is not the word I would use. If it absolutely must be a “phobia” let it be “islamophobia”. Yes, we’re afraid of Islam. The islamisation of Europe is a frightening thing. Even distinguished Jewish scholars as Bat Ye’or and Bernard Lewis warned for this. If this historical process continues, the Jews will be the first victims. Europe will become as dangerous for them as Egypt or Algeria.

The fact that Dewinter used the word “islamophobia” has outraged the Belgian media, since xenophobia (and islamophobia) is a criminal offense. Under Belgium’s very broad Anti-Racism Act of 1981, racial discrimination is defined as “each form of distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference, which has or may have as its aim or consequence that the recognition, the enjoyment or exercise on an equal footing of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social or cultural sphere or in other areas of social life, is destroyed, affected or restricted.”

Contrary to the European anti-discrimination treaties, the Belgian bill not only prohibits distinctions that have restrictions as their aim or consequence, but also distinctions that may have these restrictions – or even simply effects – as their consequence. Anyone who describes himself as an “islamophobe” is pronouncing a preference which may have as its consequence that the enjoyment of a freedom in an area of social life be affected. Moreover, the Belgian Anti-Discrimination Act of 2003 reversed the onus of proof. The complainant does not need to prove that the accused “discriminates” or propagates “discrimination,” but it is up to the latter to prove that he does not. ~Paul Belien, The Brussels Journal

I have to congratulate Mr. Dewinter and his party on continuing to challenge the oppressive laws of the Belgian state. In spite of the fact that he probably knew he could be sued and his party defunded (again), he has not allowed tyrannical laws to cow or intimidate him from stating his quite reasonable opinions. Mr. Dewinter and the Vlaams Belang have our best wishes for defeating these scurrilous attacks and continuing to have success to determine the political fortunes of a Flanders that will one day, let’s hope, be independent and free.

[Col.] Bubp, a GOP state legislator and Marine Corps Reserve officer, had campaigned for Schmidt. He put out his own statement yesterday: “The comments and concerns I shared with Congresswoman Schmidt were never meant as a personal reference to Mr. Murtha. . . . We never discussed anyone by name and there was no intent to ever disparage the congressman or his distinguished record of service for our nation.” Bubp, through a spokeswoman, declined an interview request.

Schmidt recalls their Friday phone conversation somewhat differently. “I wrote down what he was saying,” she said in the interview. “He did ask me to send a message to Congress, and he also said send a message to ‘that congressman.’ He did not know that congressman’s name, but I did. Neither one of us knew he was a Marine.”

Schmidt said she had not noticed the numerous references to Murtha’s military background in the newspaper, radio and TV accounts of his troop-withdrawal proposal, made Thursday. “They keep us pretty busy,” she said.

Paul Hackett, a veteran of the Iraq war who lost the August special election to Schmidt, said her comments on the House floor “were at best irresponsible and at worst grossly unpatriotic.” Hackett, who has sharply criticized President Bush’s Iraq war policy, is running for the U.S. Senate in Ohio, but some Democrats are trying to talk him into a rematch against Schmidt. ~The Washington Post

I find her excuse very hard to believe. Who hasn’t seen a reference to his military career in every news story about Rep. Murtha? Most of the articles out there have made a point of mentioning it to highlight the fact that, as a veteran and supporter of activist foreign policy, his growing opposition to the war is more significant than that of other members of his party.

Mmebers of Congress do have staffers for many reasons–one of them is to keep the members from missing or misstating facts that are common knowledge to any literate and informed citizen. It reflects very badly on Rep. Schmidt and her party that she cannot simply acknowledge that her choice of words could only have appeared to be designed to insult Rep. Murtha and imply that he was exhibiting a kind of cowardice. It simply cannot be just a coincidence, and even if it was a coincidence she ought to be able to understand why her remarks were immediately offensive to those that heard and read them. No spin was required to make people across the spectrum understand the trashy nature of the attack–everyone knew what she meant to say, even if she is too much of a coward to admit it.

When Murtha says “redeploy” – instead of withdraw – the troops from Iraq, he makes clear that – despite his rhetoric – he doesn’t want to really bring them home, but to station them in the Middle East. As he told Anderson Cooper of CNN:

“We … have united the Iraqis against us. And so I’m convinced, once we redeploy to Kuwait or to the surrounding area, that it will be much safer. They won’t be able to unify against the United States. And then, if we have to go back in, we can go back in.”

Moreover, Murtha’s resolution calls for the U.S. to create “a quick-reaction U.S. force and an over-the-horizon presence of U.S. Marines” to be “deployed to the region.”

We strongly disagree. The antiwar movement cannot endorse U.S. military intervention in the Middle East, whether over or under the horizon. We don’t want American troops remaining in the region and poised to go back into Iraq. They don’t belong there, period. Some – though not Murtha – suggest keeping U.S. bases within Iraq, close to the oil fields or in Kurdistan, in order to intervene more or less on the pattern of what U.S. forces are doing in Afghanistan. But this is a recipe for disaster, since the Iraqi view that the United States intends a permanent occupation is one of the main causes inciting the insurgency. Moreover, stationing forces in Kurdistan could only deepen the already dangerous ethnic animosities among Iraqis. In any event, if our troops continue to be used in Iraq – whether deployed from bases inside the country or from outside – they will inevitably continue to cause civilian casualties, further provoking violence. Having a U.S. interventionary force stationed in Kuwait or a similar location will continue to inflame the opposition of Iraqis who will know their sovereignty is still subject to external control. As for the impact of keeping U.S. forces anywhere else in the larger region, it should be recalled that their presence was the decisive factor leading to 9/11 and fuels “global terrorism” in the same way that their presence in Iraq “fuels the insurgency.”

Murtha, we need to keep in mind, is not opposed to U.S. imperial designs or militarism. He criticizes the Bush administration because its Iraq policies have led to cuts in the (non-Iraq) defense budget, threatening the America’s ability to maintain “military dominance.” ~Gilbert Achcar and Stephen R. Shalom, Antiwar.com

The authors make a very good point. If opponents of the war wish to be truly successful, we will need to accomplish the complete scrapping of the interventionist model of foreign policy that put us into the Persian Gulf 15 years ago and has kept us there ever since. Rep. Murtha is not exactly “on our side,” but he has slowed the jingoist juggernaut more effectively in just one week than anything the hopelessly fragmented and aimless antiwar movement has achieved in three years. For sake of extracting Americans out of this pointless and unjust war, supporting “redeployment,” even if it is motivated by hegemonist and interventionist concerns, is the best course available. Demanding unconditional withdrawal as the gold standard of the antiwar movement, as the authors do, will have the same effect that demanding unconditional surrender has in war: the war will go on with moderate levels of popular support and a majority of Congress unwilling to change course, and more American and Iraqi lives will be claimed in the absurd conflict.

In other news, not entirely surprisingly, media darling Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) has inched his way to a position of gradual reduction of forces from Iraq. It is admittedly not much, and it comes from a Senator whose career has been typified by embracing the far left, which will hardly lend the idea much credibility with the members who need to change their positions for the policy to change. Nonetheless, it is a bit of movement.

An appeal only to race selects the thinnest possible reed on which to base a movement. Race, as it is understood today in scientific terms, is largely an abstraction, and while it serves to explain much about society, history, and human behavior, it remains too much of an abstraction to generate much loyalty or motivate much action. The skeleton of race acquires concrete meaning and generates concrete loyalties only as it takes on cultural and political flesh, as race becomes tied up with community, kinship, nationality, territory, language, literature, art, religion, moral codes and manners, social class, and political aspirations. It is precisely such accretions that convert the biological abstraction of “race” into the concrete category of a “people.” ~Samuel Francis, American Renaissance (March 1995)

The late Dr. Francis makes a great deal of sense here, and this statement fits very well with my own thinking on the matter. Perhaps this might serve as a kind of compromise position for the opposing arguments in what I believe is an artificial opposition of Mr. Sailer’s citizenism to Mr. Taylor’s white nationalism as mutually exclusive views.

In the House, a group of immigration hard-liners thinks this precept that has been around for a century and a half is a detriment to the nation because, they say, it can serve as a magnet for undocumented people to slip across the border and bear children. Such offspring can eventually serve as the “anchor” that other family members may use to gain citizenship themselves.

According to this point of view, many pregnant women, or young couples of childbearing age, may decide to try to get to U.S. soil so the children will reap American citizenship and the opportunities and benefits that go with it.

And once the children reach age 21, they can begin to sponsor family members to legally immigrate. To Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., and others on a House immigration task force, that effectively rewards those who break immigration laws.

Citizenship “should not be bestowed on people who are the children of folks who come into this country illegally,” Tancredo said.

But critics of doing away with what is sometimes called “birthright citizenship” say the constitutional provision has actually been a boon for the United States, one of the few countries in the world to grant such immediate status.

By embracing all babies at birth as Americans, the nation has avoided the societal unrest that has festered in France, where even the French-born children of Arab and other legal immigrants do not automatically become citizens until they reach 18.

Resentment and discrimination from that segregated status is blamed for contributing to the rage that exploded into riots in recent weeks across France.

“It has served us well by giving (everyone born in the United States) the sense of belonging from day one,” said Demetrios Papademetriou, president of the Migration Policy Institute in Washington. “It’s how we built our country.” ~Scripps-Howard News Service

Where does Mr. Papademetriou go astray? He assumes that citizenship in this country implies a sense of belonging. That is exactly what birthright citizenship does not do–it provides membership in the polity on the basis of nothing more than an accident of birth. That it was originally designed to counteract that other accident of birth, namely servile status, is no excuse. The proper solution is to make a requirement that newborn children are citizens only if at least one parent is already a citizen, whether native or naturalised. That would require some greater conscious commitment on the part of the parents to adapt to this country, and it would prevent the abuse of the 14th Amendment provision that is obviously egregious and indefensible.

Belonging implies meaning, and for citizenship to be meaningful it must have been actively embraced and then inculcated in one’s children. We (and this includes many of the fans of mass immigration) don’t assume that people who come to this country should be spared the process of naturalisation, nor do we assume that native-born children automatically understand their roles as citizens but instead have to be educated in these things by their parents and (God help us) their teachers. Ending birthright citizenship would force immigrants to become at least a little better acquainted with this country by making sure that every new citizen has had to be raised up by citizen parents, so that their children’s integration, such as it is, is premised on their own willingness to become fully American.

Incidentally, the French integration model allows for naturalisation, and, as so many dimwits have been fond of pointing out in the last month, many of the rioting “youths” were technically French citizens–so much for the sense of belonging! Citizenship is a legal and political category–it does not carry much meaning for those not raised in the cultural traditions of the peoples who fashioned the Republic and transmitted the constitutional and legal principles embodied in our institutions and laws. Citizenship is, as Steve Sailer correctly pointed out in another context, an extremely weak and relatively unnatural form of allegiance. It may excite fewer passions, but it also stirs relatively little loyalty unless it is augmented by other more natural affinities that give that citizenship some heft and substance.

I might put it, perhaps a bit too simplistically, this way: I am not a patriot because I am a good citizen, but I am a good citizen because I am a patriot. And so on. As important as the land may be to patriotism, simply being born on its soil does not in itself lay the foundations for patriotic instinct. This instinct grows through living a particular way of life suited to that land, and through accommodating oneself to that way of life.

Ending birthright citizenship will also clarify a bit more whose birthright this country is and whose it is not.

On the lighter side, here is the abstract of a law review article by one Prof. Benjamin Barton detailing the profoundly negative portrayal of bureaucracy in the Harry Potter novels, showing how this portrayal supports public choice theory and advancing the thesis that there will be increasing “distrust of government and libertarianism” as the Harry Potter generation grows up.

Via Jeffrey Tucker at Mises via Volokh.

I am proud to say that I have never cracked a Harry Potter book, but I have seen the four movies made to date and so have some idea what Prof. Barton is talking about in his review article. The claim that libertarianism will increase in the generation that has been growing up with these stories (section 5 is called “Harry Potter and the Future Libertarian Majority”!) is pretty implausible, as Prof. Volokh has more or less already said. What I find curious is how anyone could view the Harry Potter world as anything other than a dystopia populated with a few heroic figures–more in keeping with the spirit of a saga than with Atlas Shrugged.

Aside from the not infrequent approval of necessary rule-breaking, which serves to provide Rowling’s plot devices, it would be hard to find an affirmation of any political idea in these stories (except for the de rigueur affirmation of wizard-’muggle’ intermarriage that permeates, say, Chamber of Secrets). As I understand the story, the entire world of wizards is kept hushed up by an immensely intrusive and powerful state (taking the neocon claim that “the government knows things we don’t” to a new level), and the sole means of legitimate education comes by means of the Etonian state-run academy that is Hogwarts. Even for the wizards who do not openly despise the ‘muggles’, a very British condescending elitism is always in the air. The young heroes may occasionally flout the rules in moments of emergency, but seem to fundamentally accept the system, at least until it directly turns on them. Maybe Rowling’s books will encourage a new generation of Platonists.

But supposing these books do encourage a small boom in libertarianism, the libertarians are welcome to Rowling and her fans. Lewis and Tolkien, with whose works Rowling’s are sometimes rather preposterously compared, may not have directly influenced the politics of the English-speaking world in the ways that they might have liked, but their stories will have a far more enduring significance, as they are founded on structures of revelation and myth that will long outlast the amusing, but ephemeral tales of wizard children.

The anti-Murtha juggernaut will fail. The Pennsylvania Democrat may not be Scoop Jackson but he is certainly not Michael Moore, no matter how much some in the White House might want to link the two. A majority of Americans are now entertaining second thoughts about the Iraq war, not just a far-left fringe.

Yet by refusing to question the war or respond to changing circumstances on the ground, Republicans risk driving the country into the left’s arms. An inability to rethink military action while combat is ongoing prevents a realistic assessment of our current policy — a policy that a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found 52 percent of Americans no longer believe to be worthwhile.

It does no disservice to our troops to question the policies of their civilian leaders. It is not surrender to abandon a course if it was misconceived from the beginning. We must not continue to spend blood and treasure in Iraq based on premises as faulty as those which led us into war in the first place. ~W. James Antle III, Enter Stage Right

Not only did Rep. Jean Schmidt slander Rep. Murtha by suggesting that he was a coward and not a ‘real’ Marine because of his Iraq withdrawal proposal–she apparently also misrepresented the conversation she had with Marine Col. Bubp, whose sentiments she claimed to be conveying to the House:

But a spokeswoman for the colonel, Danny R. Bubp, said Ms. Schmidt had misconstrued their conversation.

While Mr. Bubp, a Republican member of the Ohio House of Representatives, opposes a quick withdrawal for forces, “he did not mention Congressman Murtha by name nor did he mean to disparage Congressman Murtha,” said Karen Tabor, his spokeswoman. “He feels as though the words that Congresswoman Schmidt chose did not represent their conversation.” ~The New York Times

Meanwhile, Rep. Schmidt continues to retreat from her obnoxious remarks in the most disingenuous way possible:

Asked to respond on Monday, the congresswoman’s office said only, “Mrs. Schmidt’s statement was never meant to disparage Congressman Murtha.”

Hat tip to Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly.

Modern isn’t anything. It isn’t American, it isn’t English, it isn’t Italian. It has no characteristics. It certainly isn’t civilization, and may not even be culture. But the old America is real, and that is the West. The old South used to be real, and that’s been modernized to the point where it isn’t a civilization anymore.

Modern is a state of mind more than it’s a state of development…. ~Chilton Williamson, Interview with The Washington Times

Perhaps the secularists think that it will be as easy for them to destroy Islam as it was to destroy Christianity. For the time being, until Islam takes over, Europe’s dominant culture is that of liberal Europeans who look upon Muslim societies as medieval backwaters and assume as a matter of course that their own attitudes and lifestyles will, and should, be adopted by all other members of society. However, the events of the past three weeks have put those who regard themselves as icons of tolerance to the test and have shown that they are totally incapable of looking at the facts from another (in this case a non-white, non-liberal) perspective. Their obvious, though subconscious, chauvinism and their lofty, paternalising attitude during the three weeks of rioting served only to fuel the anger of the Muslim “youths.”

This anger was directed, not against unemployment or exclusion from French society (inclusion in the latter is the last thing they want if it means being forced to adopt the decadent culture of the West) but against the very policies which provide them with equal opportunites and equal status in French society. The “youths” burned down schools and sports centres because they perceived these for what they are: attempts to lure them into the culture of Western liberal society. From this point of view all the policies promoting integration and participation, equality, education and employment, especially when they are shrouded in liberal, “tolerant” rhetoric, can only be interpreted as insults to their dignity. They are Europe’s future because they are its youth, and they know it. The liberal media, by unqualifyingly describing them as “youths” confirmed this for all to see. What we witnessed in France in the first half of November 2005 was the writing on the wall: Europe’s Mene Tekel Upharsin – Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. ~Alexandra Colen, The Brussels Journal

Is there a way out? If one is to believe the French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut there is not. In an interview in the Parisian conservative newspaper Le Figaro last Tuesday (November 15), he said that it is not the French Republic that is failing. “The school of the Republic died a long time ago. It’s the post-Republic model of super-sympathetic educative community immersed in social activism that’s sinking. But alas, it’s an indestructible model, since it feeds on its own fiascos. It reacts to every failure with intensification. And here we go again: through scorn for truth, tomorrow the French school will thus drown the diversity of the black slave trade in the ocean of anti-Western political correctness. We’ll teach colonization not as a terrible, ambiguous historical phenomenon, but as a crime against humanity. Thus we’ll respond to the challenge of integration by hastening national disintegration.”

It is the same with the social-democratic welfare model. It feeds on its own fiascos and will continue to do so until it collapses – implodes – under its own weight. Consequently it is an indestructible model. The only way out is for the implosion to come soon. If it does, then national disintegration may perhaps still be avoided. If it does not, the social fabric of the nation will be damaged beyond repair. ~Paul Belien, The Brussels Journal

The stealth with which the European authorities have for almost two decades now been accepting polygamy is a clear indication that Western Europe has lost all faith in its own traditional values, such as monogamous marriage. This also became clear recently when the Dutch authorities refused to annul the civil union which a Dutch man concluded with two women before a notary. The latter is morally distinct from the traditional polygamy of the Muslims because the two women involved also engage in a lesbian relationship (their “husband” said his wives were bisexual), making the case not only a trio-marriage but a homosexual relationship as well. At least the Muslims have never taken decadence that far. How can societies that accept such situations object to Muslims with multiple wives?

In fact the Muslims are not to blame for the collapse of Western Europe’s civilisation. The latter’s problems are entirely self-inflicted. The reality that the old continent is gradually, but ever more rapidly, becoming Islamic is a consequence of the suicide of its once Christian and now hedonist and secular culture. The attitude that everyone can do whatever he or she likes so long as it makes them happy, is leading us directly to Eurabia. However, those who care about happiness may find consolation in the words of Philander Johnson: “Cheer up, the worst is yet to come.” ~Paul Belien, Canada Free Press

What does it mean to be a citizenist? I think this is a very important question, and Steve Sailer should be thanked for spurring the debate on this subject through his exchange with Jared Taylor. Steve Sailer provides us with a good starting point when he describes, I think fairly, the rival positions:

By “white nationalism”, Taylor does not mean white supremacism, but simply that American whites should feel free to follow their own interests, as African Americans, Hispanics, Zionists etc. already do. By “citizenism,” I mean that I believe Americans and their government should be biased in favor of the welfare of our current fellow citizens over that of the six billion foreigners.

Stated in this way, it is puzzling why there should be an argument at all. On the one hand, Mr. Taylor’s position says that white Americans should act in their own interest and should cease acting directly against their own interest. His view does assume that there is enough similarity or homogeneity among white Americans that they share a common group interest. On the other, Mr. Sailer’s citizenism holds that Americans should pursue the welfare of all American citizens. In particular, we should work to bring an end to the elite tyranny that has betrayed our nation, sovereignty and the integrity of our borders through mass immigration. Any republican would see the virtue in the citizenist position: it is the duty of citizens to help preserve the commonwealth and make it to flourish for the benefit of the whole. The disagreement seems to stem not from the two original claims, which are eminently compatible. The point is, I suppose, that man does not live by citizenship alone (neither does he live by race or nationality alone–these are all elements of the composition). Even if Mr. Taylor’s position is not as pragmatic when it comes to pushing for immigration restrictions, this would amount to a limited disagreement over political maneuvering but for a couple of important qualifications that Mr. Sailer makes.

Mr. Sailer ties Mr. Taylor’s position to a way of life that is not as individualistic as the present arrangement:

And that points out a big problem for American white nationalists: white Americans don’t want to act like the rest of the world, as the white nationalists advise them to, they want to act like white Americans. They don’t want to submit their individual freedom to their extended families, they want to marry whom they want to marry and then focus on their nuclear families. They want the law to treat them not as members of a clan but as individual and equal citizens under the law.

Mr. Sailer has hit upon an important aspect of the problem here, albeit for what I think may be the wrong reasons. For my part, it is because Mr. Sailer’s citizenism is being cast intentionally as the artificial and individualistic alternative to Mr. Taylor’s organic, potentially corporatist position that I find I cannot quite get behind it. In my view, it is to be lamented that Westerners have abjured extended families, clans and all the rest of it, not least because they threw the baby of cultural tradition out with the bathwater of so many of these social relations. Elsewhere Mr. Sailer says in a paragraph I’ve quoted before:

In contrast, the Middle East is full of ancient ethnic groups like the Yezidis and Druzes that have made group self-propagation rather than the welfare of their individual members their highest priority. For example, a few hundred Samaritans, good, bad, and indifferent, are still around after 2000 years, living on two hilltops in the Holy Land. These groups have preserved their ethnic purity because it is taken for granted that elders will arrange the marriages of the young, and will do it to insure the ethnic identity and separateness of the tribe rather than the romantic fulfillment of the couple.

Whatever good can be said about the romantic fulfillment of couples, this is really something fairly trivial. Traditional societies have never taken something like this into account for anything as serious and socially significant as marriage. What Mr. Sailer’s example shows us that peoples that wish to endure impose obligations on their members, just as polities impose obligations on their citizens for the sake of their survival, on the assumption that the members have received who they are, their nourishment, their upbringing and whatever culture they have from their people and ancestors. Those peoples that do not impose such obligations may or may not survive, but if they do it will either be by chance or because of the lingering natural preference of members of the group to remain with their own. But that preference is markedly strengthened if children are raised to believe that continuing the traditions of their fathers matters. If it is a matter of indifference to the elders, why should the young care? To the extent that Mr. Sailer’s citizenism seems to be premised on encouraging this indifference, I am against it. If it means only what he said in that initial statement given above, there should be no argument.
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Democracy does not leave any room for morals; the only absolute it acknowledges is the will of the individual. There is no such thing as a republican democracy, for democracy excludes any res publica. ~Claude Polin, Chronicles (December 2005)

Unfortunately, Prof. Polin’s article is available only in the print edition, but it is a must-read. It could very easily be a short manifesto of paleoconservatism. The entire article, “Conservatism as Medicine,” is well worth reading, and it has a number of gems like the one given above. Go out and get a copy today!

Western history has been distorted by the politically correct to emphasize its dog-bites-man aspects—its episodes of ethnocentrism and inequality, which are universals—and ignore its man-bites-dog accomplishments, of which citizenism is one of the most important.

When Mr. Taylor writes:

“I don’t believe the traits that characterized whites for all but 50 years of recorded history have disappeared for ever.”

He, like the politically correct, is missing the key point: there has been an underlying trajectory to Western history that has produced an America where citizenism is a lot more likely to appeal than white nationalism.

Over the last millennium, something perhaps unique in world history occurred in Europe, especially in its northwestern quadrant (and, in later years, in its offshoots like America): a movement away from the fractiousness of clan and tribe, but without the usual congealment into despotism.

By inventing nationalism, this corner of the world managed to figure out how to make possible the squaring of the circle of combining individual freedom with cooperation on an enormous scale. The results of nationalism included enormous military power, domestic (but not always international) peace, wealth, cultural glories, and at least the possibility of self-rule and personal liberty.

But much had to be sacrificed or subordinated in the process of building nation-states, such as many old tribal identities. Individuals lost their clan status and became subjects, and later citizens, under the nation law.

In contrast, the Middle East is full of ancient ethnic groups like the Yezidis and Druzes that have made group self-propagation rather than the welfare of their individual members their highest priority. For example, a few hundred Samaritans, good, bad, and indifferent, are still around after 2000 years, living on two hilltops in the Holy Land. These groups have preserved their ethnic purity because it is taken for granted that elders will arrange the marriages of the young, and will do it to insure the ethnic identity and separateness of the tribe rather than the romantic fulfillment of the couple. ~Steve Sailer, VDARE.com

Hat tip to Glaivester.

Mr. Sailer may be right that what he is calling citizenism could be more appealing than Mr. Taylor’s white nationalism. I would note that it only seems appealing so long as whites are the majority in their own countries. Not only would we have reason to doubt the survival of any of the triumphs of this citizenism in the event of whites become a minority in their own lands, but we can also see in South Africa and Zimbabwe the consequences for the white population in privileging a concept of citizen in their politics over that of their racial and ethnic identity. Simply put, those who refuse to think of themselves in terms of ethne and genos will be edged out, or quite literally forced out, by those who do. The French have pursued the dual track of ‘celebrating’ cultural diversity while denying culture any political significance one way or the other–under the law and in political discourse, all are carbon copy citoyens of the Republic (even though everyone knows this is untrue). Few would say that this has been a resounding success for the French.

The historic successes of Western nations in creating the institutions and mores that have made our way of life possible are acknowledged, but they have come at the terrible price of an enervating, progressive detachment from ancestral identities. It is very debatable whether any stage of consolidation and centralisation in the history of northwestern Europe in the last 300 years marks the “squaring of the circle of combining individual freedom with cooperation on an enormous scale.” If this circle can be squared, I don’t think it is nationalism that can do it. In the last 200 years nationalists have “squared the circle” in question by obliterating as much of the “circle” as possible and trying to start from scratch. This may help to explain the rationale, ugly as it is, for the ferocity of the suppression of the Vendee or the near-annihilationist character of Union warfare in the South. Gerhard Niemeyer’s insight that all modern revolutionary thinking, of which political nationalism is a significant product, is premised on a ‘total critique’ of the existing order is helpful here in understanding the negative, destructive quality of nationalism on the very people who are supposed, by the logic of nationalism, to belong to the same people as the nationalists who are crushing them. It is one of the tragic ironies of nationalism, which bases so much of its rhetoric on essentialism, that it treats members of its imagined communities like so much clay or mouldable plastic.

Two points should be made about nationalism and Mr. Sailer’s description given above. Even under nationalism, it was one’s belonging to the natio, the gens as a matter of descent (or at least imagined descent) and common history that defined both early modern protonationalism and post-Revolutionary nationalism. Thus, even as amalgamated identities, which were forged out of the mashing together and suppression of numerous organic identities, these national identities privileged ethnicity (they did not use the 20th century neologism, of course, but they did employ the concept) and understood citizenship as equivalent with nationality. In several European languages, the designation on passports to this day and the conventional term used to describe someone’s belonging to the polity is nationality (e.g., in Hungarian, allampolgarsag; in Armenian, azgut’yun–these are the best examples that come to mind at the moment).
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Fortunately, the latest Pew poll broke down its results on the question of whether America should “mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own,” and I thought it might be of some interest to find out who it is who thinks we should mind our own business.
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The poll continues to show the long-standing divide between elite and general public opinion over trade and the international economy. Among the general public, 84 per cent said protecting American jobs should be a foreign policy priority, but most elite groups did not mention the issue.

On other issues, most elite groups said that visa restrictions on foreign students adopted after September 11 had gone too far, but the general public strongly disagreed, with 71 per cent saying such restrictions are needed to prevent terrorists from entering the US.

The poll also underscored the continued strength of US-European relations, with 84 per cent saying the US partnership with Europe remained important.

While the US has not suffered another terrorist attack on its soil since September 11, most Americans believe the capacity of terrorists to mount such an attack is undiminished. When asked why America had not been attacked again, nearly half said it was merely luck. ~MSNBC (originally from The Financial Times)

This latest Pew poll, aside from the much-touted result of “growing isolationism” in America (42% think we should mind our own business, as opposed to 30% three years ago, which is good news and it is not “isolationist” but simply sane), represents the popular repudiation of a number of neocon positions. Neocon Europhobia may keep their own pundits amused, but the deterioration of relations with Europe is evidently not a welcome development in the popular view. It might be a function of people watching too much 24, but the popular view is that the much-vaunted War on Terror has not really been very successful with respect to diminishing the capacity of terrorist groups. Little wonder, since the bulk of what now passes for that war takes place in Iraq and now functions as the jihadi factory that the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan did 20 years ago. Even domestic security is not credited to the administration, since I suspect most of the people are well aware of the pitiful state of our border security.

In a clear rebuke to the Wall Street Journal/Weekly Standard embrace of “free trade,” an overwhelming 84% saw job protection (which implies protection of some kind for domestic industry and business) as a priority. As the poll shows, the neocons are not alone among elites in not even conceiving of this as a problem, but it is the neocons who most full-throatedly endorse the trade and economic policies that 84% of the people seem to find seriously lacking.

As on immigration (51% in the Pew poll regarded illegal immigration as a foreign policy priority, which may suggest even deeper levels of anxiety about illegal immigration), the elites are fantastically out of touch with most of the country on trade. On those two issues there is the possible making of an America First movement. The 42% who believe we should mind our own business (matching the levels found in 1976 and 1995) possibly represent an untapped potential of core America First supporters on foreign policy. In very good news, the Pew poll could find no more than a third of any group of “influentials” or in the general public that believed promoting democracy was an important long-term goal of this country. That particular folly lacks the national consensus to become an enduring, popular policy, and once Iraq finally ends it will likely weaken more in popular support. These should be encouraging results for traditional and paleoconservatives, as they mark some small, probably very temporary turning of popular sentiment away from the enthusiasms of the managerial class and towards a healthier, Middle American politics.

Murtha is the 73-year-old recipient of two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for combat duty in Vietnam. He is a Democrat whose three decades in office are marked by support of President Reagan’s policies in Nicaragua and El Salvador. Murtha was a top Democratic supporter of the 1991 Gulf War. He wants a constitutional ban on burning the American flag.

In a 2002 press briefing, former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz termed the support of politicians like Murtha for the Pentagon as “wonderful.” In the 2004 vice presidential debate, incumbent Dick Cheney said, “One of my strongest allies in Congress when I was secretary of defense was Jack Murtha.”

Murtha clobbered Cheney’s words the next day, saying, “I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war and then don’t like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done.”

This hawk still soars, above the scrounging chicken hawks. ~Derrick Jackson, The Boston Globe

“A group of us Republicans changed registration to vote for him and then switched right back,” said Arlene Johns, a regional editor at the Tribune-Democrat. “That’s how much respect he has.”

Called “an American Legion kind of Democrat,” Murtha supported the Persian Gulf War in 1991 but opposed intervention in Bosnia and deployment in Somalia. ~The Los Angeles Times

A day earlier, Murtha introduced a resolution calling for the deployment in Iraq to end “at the earliest practicable date.” He also called for a rapid reaction force to stay in the region and for diplomacy to be accelerated to stabilize the region.

The Republican-sponsored resolution, by contrast, stated only that “it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately.”

Murtha, who received a standing ovation from Democrats when he took his seat in the chamber Friday, said he would vote against the Republican version, putting himself in the position of voting against a policy he had advocated a day earlier.

Other Democrats, many of them eager to respond to declining support for the war, resented being forced to vote for a resolution, the meaning of which could be easily misconstrued in future political advertising.

Murtha “introduced a bill yesterday that I don’t entirely agree with . . . but to take his proposal and trash it, trivialize it, is . . . beneath contempt,” said Rep. Jack Spratt (D-S.C.). ~The Chicago Tribune

Democrats claimed Republicans were changing the meaning of Murtha’s withdrawal proposal. He has said a smooth withdrawal would take six months.

At one point in the emotional debate, Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, told of a phone call she received from a Marine colonel.

“He asked me to send Congress a message — stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message — that cowards cut and run, Marines never do,” Schmidt said. Murtha is a 37-year Marine veteran.

Democrats booed and shouted her down — causing the House to come to a standstill.

Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tennessee, charged across the chamber’s center aisle screaming that Republicans were making uncalled-for personal attacks.

With a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts, Murtha retired from the Marine Corps reserves as a colonel in 1990 after 37 years as a Marine, only a few years longer than he’s been in Congress. Murtha, elected in 1974, has become known as an authority on national security whose advice was sought out by Republican and Democratic administrations alike. ~CNN

The debate was loud and disruptive. At one point, Democrats surged toward the Republican side of the chamber, shouting for an Ohio congresswoman to take her words back.

The incident began as Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio), who took her seat in September after a special election, was recounting a conversation with a Marine colonel.

“He asked me to send Congress a message–stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message–that cowards cut and run, Marines never do,” Schmidt said.

Murtha is a former Marine who retired from a 37-year career in the corps with the rank of colonel, and Democrats considered her comment an insult.

It was also a violation of House rules, which do not permit members to address each other, only the chair.

“Take her words down, take them down,” Democrats shouted, bringing the proceedings to a halt. After several minutes of frantic negotiation, Schmidt stood up, said she retracted her comment and apologized. ~The Chicago Tribune

Rep. Ford does not strike me as the “screaming” type, but it is little wonder that someone normally as composed as he seems to be would take umbrage at the truly shabby, low-class, so very Clintonian sort of attack on Rep. Murtha’s reputation that Rep. Schmidt made (undoubtedly with the blessings of Hastert). While there seems to be good reason to doubt some of John Kerry’s exploits in Vietnam, there has never been any question or ambiguity about Rep. Murtha. Marines in Vietnam did not receive Bronze Stars with the combat “V” for anything less than genuine heroism in combat.

That some time-serving woman politician (who very nearly lost her special election to an Iraq war veteran who now opposes the war) had the gall to pretend to represent the ideals of the U.S. Marine Corps and use them to club a man who seems to be nothing other than an honourable veteran is reprehensible. What is worse, as the Tribune article makes clear, she did not even have the guts to stand by her accusation. Rep. Murtha’s courage was never really in question (one wonders whether there was ever a real conversation with a Marine colonel). It was just a useful ploy to try to tarnish his reputation with the sort of trashy rhetoric we have come to expect from the neocons and their hangers-on, for whom courage and honour are usually words to conjure with and are otherwise meaningless to those who breezily invoke them.

The House on Friday overwhelmingly rejected calls for an immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq, a vote engineered by the Republicans that was intended to fail. Democrats derided the vote as a political stunt.

“Our troops have become the enemy. We need to change direction in Iraq,” said Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a Democratic hawk whose call a day earlier for pulling out troops sparked a nasty, personal debate over the war.

The House voted 403-3 to reject a nonbinding resolution calling for an immediate troop withdrawal. ~ABC News

The language of this resolution was designed to maximise the advantage of war supporters and create a splash in the media that might suggest members of the House are virtually unanimous in opposing withdrawal. The result completely distorts the sentiment in the House and, more importantly, would represent a complete divorce from popular sentiment if it were accurate. A simple statement calling for “the deployment of United States forces (to) be terminated immediately” might be objected to on any number of grounds. It must be the case that more than three members of the House believe that the U.S. should leave Iraq, but none of these other opponents wanted to be on record voting for such an imprecise resolution.

Roll Call (subscription required) reports that the GOP is considering an ethics probe of Rep. Murtha, who began this latest fracas with his call for withdrawal from Iraq. How very convenient.

Importantly, in Murtha’s speech the other day his specific proposal was this: “To immediately redeploy U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces [emphasis added].” That is a world away from simply demanding immediate redeployment. With this little demonstration, the GOP House leadership has shown itself to be as small-minded and petty on a vital policy question as the whining President who believes it is fitting for a man in his position to sling accusations of dishonesty at those who have the temerity to question his incompetent leadership and deceitful public claims.

Dover distinguished itself this Election Day by throwing out all eight members of its school board who tried to impose “intelligent design” — today’s tarted-up version of creationism — on the biology curriculum. Pat Robertson then called the wrath of God down upon the good people of Dover for voting “God out of your city.” Meanwhile, in Kansas, the school board did a reverse Dover, mandating the teaching of skepticism about evolution and forcing intelligent design into the statewide biology curriculum.

Let’s be clear. Intelligent design may be interesting as theology, but as science it is a fraud. It is a self-enclosed, tautological “theory” whose only holding is that when there are gaps in some area of scientific knowledge — in this case, evolution — they are to be filled by God. It is a “theory” that admits that evolution and natural selection explain such things as the development of drug resistance in bacteria and other such evolutionary changes within species but also says that every once in a while God steps into this world of constant and accumulating change and says, “I think I’ll make me a lemur today.” A “theory” that violates the most basic requirement of anything pretending to be science — that it be empirically disprovable. How does one empirically disprove the proposition that God was behind the lemur, or evolution — or behind the motion of the tides or the “strong force” that holds the atom together? ~Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post

In spite of the fact that Krauthammer manages somehow to confuse ID theorists with creationists (or, really, with “creation scientists”), even though they have little in common, ID theorists should be very worried when even someone such as Krauthammer can explain very succinctly why they are dead wrong in trying to push ID on science students.

It is important to note, to correct the false impression Krauthammer gives, that ID theorists accept the theory of evolution by and large, whereas those conventionally called creationists, especially those who believe in “creation science” (one can easily be a creationist theologically without buying into this nonsense), are willing to take the scientific method seriously only insofar as it can be used to validate an extremely literalistic account of the creation and salvation history since then and they are firmly opposed to granting the theory of evolution any merit whatever. ID theorists are, I think, genuinely embarrassed by “creation science” and have attempted, however foolishly, to thwart the materialist monopoly in science, so to speak, by making a metaphysical Designer part of the story. But, as we have seen with the aged Prof. Flew in Britain, their Designer is a world away from the Lord God described in Genesis. For their part, literal creationists would be hard put to tolerate what they would probably consider the ID theorists’ watered-down quasi-theism. Nonetheless, both ID theory and “creation science” suffer from a muddling of categories and mistaking empirical evidence for a kind of dogmatic authority.

Contrary to what I assume Krauthammer must think of such people, they all exhibit an exceedingly modern obsession with the empirical as the only evidence that truly validates any claim. Creation science simply sidesteps evidence it doesn’t like, whereas ID theory asserts things to explain what has so far not be explained, but both operate on the assumption that the study of the natural world cannot make sense without God or a Designer and so they must find tangible proof of God’s work.

Truth is one, but that does not mean that we always apprehend spiritual knowledge in precisely the same way that we gain knowledge of the physical world or that it is to be judged in the same way as empirical perceptions. Literal creationists believe fideistically in a literal six-day creation as a matter of necessity–if it is not true, then Scripture is not true, according to an impoverished exegetical method–and so set about trying to prove it empirically, even though the only reason (one might suppose) that anyone knows about the creation at all (most of which, after all, took place before there were any people) is through revelation and faith in God who reveals Himself.

Following Dostoevsky’s understanding of faith and evidence, I would argue that, theoretically, if there were evidence proving literal creationism right God would hide it from us to preserve our free will and voluntary faith. Evidence compels belief in a way that is detrimental to the free witness of faith. If literal creationists could ever “prove” their case, the very fides that made their enterprise possible would be forever subjected to absurd empirical testing.
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The Vatican’s chief astronomer said Friday that “intelligent design” isn’t science and doesn’t belong in science classrooms, the latest high-ranking Roman Catholic official to enter the evolution debate in the United States.

The Rev. George Coyne, the Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, said placing intelligent design theory alongside that of evolution in school programs was “wrong” and was akin to mixing apples with oranges.

“Intelligent design isn’t science even though it pretends to be,” the ANSA news agency quoted Coyne as saying on the sidelines of a conference in Florence. “If you want to teach it in schools, intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science.” ~Breitbart.com (AP)

Hat tip to John Derbyshire.

Though it is hardly surprising that a leading Vatican scientist would find ID theory unscientific (it does not take a scientific genius to realise this), it is gratifying to see the learned gentleman make much the same argument that I made a few weeks back. In short, I said that ID is a philosophical and theological view, and one well grounded in the patristic and Western philosophical tradition, but that does not mean it has any place in the study of the natural sciences. It does not make claims that can be tested, and its chief virtue, so to speak, is that it cannot be disproven using empirical evidence. Importing ID theory into biology and physics classes would be like lecturing on Platonic body-soul dualism to neuroscience students. It might be interesting and edifying, but it has nothing directly to do with the study of neuroscience.

Metaphysics is the province of philosophers and theologians. It is precisely when evolutionists have attempted to make metaphysical claims from natural evidence that evolution takes on the aspect of a weapon against the Faith. Making the same fundamental error in attempting to rectify this arrogant presumption by muddling metaphysics and science is misguided and will only entrench philosophical materialism in our culture by providing materialists with easy targets for ridicule.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the dismissive response of GOP blog stalwarts to Rep. John Murtha’s call for withdrawal from Iraq has been quick. The conventional wisdom seems to be that, because Murtha has been very critical of the war and skeptical that there was a military solution for some time, whatever he says now is just more of the same. Sullivan makes the important connection that it is the timing of Murtha’s speech (coming on the heels of the weak, but symbolic Senate resolution on Iraq) that makes his call for withdrawal so remarkable and why it just could mark the beginning of the end for Mr. Bush on Iraq.

I say that because it suggests that previously pro-war Democrats may be beginning to act like a real opposition party in public, rather than act like the mewling lackeys they have been hitherto. That is a lot to hope for from this crowd, but with one of their more reputable members in Rep. Murtha breaking ranks with Mr. Bush there is a chance for a small but significant War Party crack-up. True believing Republicans will hold fast to their mad cause, as we might expect, but they will soon find themselves alone on the sinking ship.

This issue doesn’t deserve much time or space, but for those looking for a good laugh I can recommend this lovely piece of tripe from Street Prophets, which is part of the Kossack horde. Any group that believes Pat Robertson is one of the chief spokesmen for most conservative (or even evangelical) Christians, from whom Christianity must be saved, is so poorly informed that we need not trouble ourselves over the other silly things they have to say.

Thanks to my friend, Jeremy Holmes, for pointing out this bit of comedy.

Yet large areas of central Los Angeles, rural California, New Orleans and Washington have become de facto apartheid communities like the French suburbs, with segregated concentrations of either illegal immigrants from Mexico, unassimilated first-generation Hispanics or impoverished African-Americans.

One remedy is a return to the assimilation, integration and intermarriage of the past that once characterized the success of most immigrants who arrived in the United States prior to the rise of ethnic separatism of the 1960s. Unfortunately, abstract deference in white America to racial tribalism often serves as psychological cover for an unwillingness to live among, or send one’s children to school with, the “other.”

The English language is our common bond. More than ever it is the first bridge between widely diverse immigrants. Bilingual education and a multiplicity of languages in official documents have not only proved wasteful but also eroded first-generation immigrants’ facility in English, the sole language that can guarantee them economic security.

Guest workers are yet another bad idea. We see that from the bitter experience of helots in France and Germany–and our own past. Modern “bracero” temporary laborers will only breed lasting resentment–”good enough to work here, but not enough to stay”–and depress the wages of poorer citizens.

Our immigration policy is in chaos. We have millions of illegal immigrants, thousands of whom are in our penal system. Our borders are less secure than France’s. There is not even a Mediterranean Sea between America and the source of most illegal entrants.

Instead of allowing in so many illegally, and then ignoring them as they fend for themselves, America should take in far fewer immigrants, ensure that all come legally and with rudimentary English and knowledge of the United States. And then we must all work together at rapidly making them into full-fledged fellow citizens. ~Victor Davis Hanson, The Chicago Tribune

Victor Davis Hanson is one of those unusual fellow travelers of the neocons who finds mass, unassimilated immigration to be a worrisome and potentially explosive social and political problem. As far as it goes, his article gets many things right, and even if he must bow to conventional Francophobia to make his point it is a welcome change from the usual sort of rot on immigration that Hanson’s colleagues have to offer.

His acknowledgement of the depressing effects of immigrant labour on the wages of native workers is an important admission of the reality that most elite Republican pundits openly dismiss as a myth or scare tactic (in reality, these pundits, mostly well-to-do from the East Coast, couldn’t care less whether the wages of working Americans are falling, so long as their standard of living isn’t noticeably affected). He is right to recognise the similarities between our multiculturalism and identity politics that ‘balkanise’ the country and France’s superficial celebration of diversity (of course, all celebrations of diversity are superficial, but some are more superficial than others).

But let’s not get carried away. There are three important flaws in Hanson’s argument that muddle his appeal for restrictions on immigration. The first, main problem is the tired invocation of civic identity and political ideals as the glue of the nation: “Yet our core American values of democracy, human rights, private property, a free economy, an unfettered press and unbridled inquiry are not optional or up for discussion.”

Actually, I wish that “democracy,” “human rights” and “unbridled inquiry” were up for discussion, since it is not self-evident to me that what Hanson means by these things are either “core American values” (of course, all these things are practises or concepts, not values–sloppy ‘value’ language strikes again) or that they are desirable. But the real problem with this formulation is that it boils down being American to adhering to a set of political beliefs.

All the things listed above may be desirable and worthwhile, but they are not what make us American. The Swiss excel in all of the things listed above, indeed they surpass us in all or almost all, but that does not make them American and those are not the things that make them Swiss. This fallback to civic identity is a continuing weakness of American identity. It makes that identity broad, highly flexible and adaptable but consequently also makes it extremely shallow and insubstantial. To redefine America in simply ideological terms is to attempt to make a success of an “ideological nation” where none has ever succeeded.

He later explicitly rejects as “racial tribalism” any emphasis by white Americans on what I assume must be their European (and, of necessity, Christian) heritage. He wants a “multiracial society under the aegis of Western culture,” which implies naturally enough that these other races do not normally embrace Western culture. That would suggest that the continued predominance of Western culture in this country has quite a lot to do with the continued predominance of the peoples who have historically borne and created that culture. By all means, he seems to be saying, let’s live under the aegis of Western culture, provided that we’re not particularly interested in where that culture came from or which peoples helped to make it.
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Don’t know how many of you caught Rep. John Murtha’s very angry, very moving speech just now in which he called on the White House to institute an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. CNN didn’t air the entire thing, but as I listened to it, I could feel the ground shift. Murtha, as you know, is not a Pelosi-style Chardonnay Democrat; he’s a crusty retired career Marine who reminds me of the kinds of beer-slugging Democrats we used to have before the cultural left took over the party. Murtha, a conservative Dem who voted for the war, talked in detail about the sacrifices being borne by our soldiers and their families, and about his visits out to Walter Reed to look after the maimed, and how we’ve had enough, it’s time to come home. He was hell on the president too.

If tough, non-effete guys like Murtha are willing to go this far, and can make the case in ways that Red America can relate to — and listening to him talk was like listening to my dad, who’s about the same age, and his hunting buddies — then the president is in big trouble. I’m sure there’s going to be an anti-Murtha pile-on in the conservative blogosphere, but from where I sit, conservatives would be fools not to take this man seriously. ~Rod Dreher, The Corner

If I had a dime for every time I have used the qualification, “conservatives would be fools not to…,” I would be off with Taki in Gstaad. Of course conservatives won’t take him seriously! By conservative, I assume Mr. Dreher means the sorts of people who would be angered by Rep. Murtha’s withdrawal speech. First, he is a Democrat, which to the true believers makes anything he has to say meaningless. Second, he is turning against the war, which is a “weak” thing to do, and “conservatives” do not like this sort of “weak” politician. They will fail to take Rep. Murtha seriously for the same reason that they have not taken Sen. Chuck Hagel, Gen. William Odom or Col. Lawrence Wilkerson seriously: for the advocates of the war, it is axiomatic that to be against this war is to be, by definition, unserious, irresponsible and whatever other dismissive descriptions Mr. Bush’s speechwriters have fed him (and, by extension, his loyal followers) today. Update: Kathryn Jean Lopez delivers her dismissive response with a minimum of effort.

All that being said, they really should take the speech seriously. Rep. Murtha’s speech is a basically sound one. Mr. Dreher said that it was a “very angry” speech, but however it was delivered it reads like a sober policy proposal with far more concrete, realistic goals than the last fifty of Mr. Bush’s speeches combined.

Rep. Murtha’s concluding remarks are these:

My plan calls:

To immediately redeploy U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces.
To create a quick reaction force in the region.
To create an over- the- horizon presence of Marines.
To diplomatically pursue security and stability in Iraq

This war needs to be personalized. As I said before I have visited with the severely wounded of this war. They are suffering.

Because we in Congress are charged with sending our sons and daughters into battle, it is our responsibility, our OBLIGATION to speak out for them. That’s why I am speaking out.

Our military has done everything that has been asked of them, the U.S. can not accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. IT IS TIME TO BRING THEM HOME.

Obviously, he wants to undermine the military and sap morale. At least, that is what our warblogger friends would say. It couldn’t possibly be that the war is a colossal waste and an assault on our military. I’m sure that would be a crazy thing to say.

Not in Europe. Officially, to be sure, France is less multicultural than most European countries - witness its rejection of religious labels in public documents and its ban on hijabs in schools. But enduring segregation is a fact of life in France as it is elsewhere on the continent. Millions of “French Muslims” don’t consider themselves French. A government report leaked last March depicted an increasingly two-track educational system: More and more Muslim students refuse to sing, dance, participate in sports, sketch a face, or play an instrument. They won’t draw a right angle (it looks like part of the Christian cross). They won’t read Voltaire and Rousseau (too antireligion), Cyrano de Bergerac (too racy), Madame Bovary (too pro-women), or Chrétien de Troyes (too chrétien). One school has separate toilets for “Muslims” and “Frenchmen”; another obeyed a Muslim leader’s call for separate locker rooms because “the circumcised should not have to undress alongside the impure.”

Many Muslims, wanting to enjoy Western prosperity but repelled by Western ways, travel regularly back to their homelands. From Oslo, where I live, there are more direct flights every week to Islamabad than to the US. A recent Norwegian report noted that among young Norwegians of Pakistani descent, family honor depends largely on “not being perceived as Norwegian - as integrated.” ~Bruce Bawer, The Christian Science Monitor

Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan.

J’Accuse! You can’t knock the military, its tactics, its weapons, its cause, and the legitimacy of the elected government it fights for and still claim, in any real sense, to support the troops. By making such sustained criticisms, you undercut morale at every turn. At best you insult our troops by portraying them as servile dupes, when in fact they’re knowledgable of their cause and motivated by the mission. At worst, you are calling them war criminals and helping the enemy in its struggle for public opinion. ~Chris Roach

I don’t know whether Mr. Roach was intentionally ironically quoting Zola, one of the leading critics of the French Army and the French state in the 1890s, to season his pro-militarist post, but it is certainly striking. It is remarkable that he would choose the title of a work plainly dedicated to criticising and, well, accusing the French Army of criminal abuse of one of its members to take a rather uncompromising position in support of the military (including any tactics they may choose to employ). In any event, I would have to be counted among the supposed morale-sappers who question some of the tactics employed and have no confidence in the cause for which these men are fighting and dying. I would make the self-evident statement that preferring American soldiers not die so that Arabs can vote is very supportive of those soldiers (or rather it values them as men and not simply as instruments of the state, which is perhaps worse for militarists than pacifism itself), but I doubt Mr. Roach would accept that.

The slogan, “support our troops,” like the ubiquitous, obnoxious yellow stickers that bark the same phrase, is not an exhortation, but a command to be followed on pain of condemnation. While I won’t attempt to dissuade antiwar folks from making the well-intentioned argument that we support the troops because we wish them to be withdrawn from an unnecessary and unjust war, there is something about that argument that has been almost too cute by half. Of course, I believe it is true that withdrawing from Iraq is better for America and the armed forces as an institution, and for everyone now serving their country in the armed forces, but I suppose I won’t pretend to be more pro-military than a militarist. I am not, and I don’t consider this something for which an American ought ever to be ashamed. Our ancestors had a horror of any standing army, no matter where it was or what it did–that we can have an even remotely civil argument over how we should be killing Arabs in a half-baked protectorate on the other side of the world shows that we have nothing in common with our Founders. In some very real sense, “supporting the troops” means supporting a war of aggression for which there is not an iota of justification. It is, of course, a damn lie and an insult to suggest that someone who refrains from cheering on such aggression lacks anything in patriotism, but it is a lie and insult to which serious patriots are well accustomed by now.

I suppose I must side with the “freakazoids,” as he calls them, over at Antiwar on the question of white phosphorus, and not simply because the “freakazoids” and I happen to agree that this war is an abomination. Note that none of the “freakazoids,” so far as I have seen, has claimed that white phosphorus is a chemical weapon. At least, it is not a chemical weapon like mustard gas: this stuff simply melts flesh, which is much better. The point ought to be that it was being used in populated civilian centers, and it evidently caused more than a few horrific civilian deaths. For the same reasons that I deplore and despise the use of all indiscriminate weapons in civilian population centers, such as fire-bombing of urban areas, I deplore and despise the use of such incendiary weapons in civilian centers.

Today’s contraception culture strikes at the heart of the God-designed unity of pleasure and responsibility, opting to embrace pleasure while avoiding the responsibility of childbearing and calling it “family planning.” Such planned parenthood and family planning is in reality planned barrenhood and family banning, and as such has been vigorously forbidden by the Holy Fathers throughout the history of the Church. St. Paul teaches that married women find their salvation in and through childbearing. ~Fr. Josiah Trenham (Antiochian Orthodox)

All of Fr. Josiah’s article is well worth reading, and this remark about contraception is not necessarily the most important part of the article. In a sense, however, it may be the most important, as contraception is one aspect of abusing human sexuality that can seem the least obviously perverse. Yet it betrays a mentality in which shirking a sacred duty in life (which is what contraception aims to achieve and does achieve) is seen as a reasonable, perhaps even as a responsible thing to do. It likely fosters an attitude towards bearing children that imagines children as “lifestyle choices” or vehicles for self-fulfillment, rather than as part of the sacred trust and obligation of married life. It surely achieves only two things: indulging the will of the flesh, and avoiding responsibility for that indulgence.

Fr. Josiah’s article would be worthwhile at any time, but it seems especially timely given the current mini-controversy over the FDA non-approval of the so-called “morning after pill” and today’s article by prominent pro-life libertarian, Steve Chapman in The Chicago Tribune. Mr. Chapman makes a cogent argument that the drug in question apparently does not prevent the implantation of a fertilised egg, and thus is not what one would call an abortifacient, but is indeed by and large a form of contraception.

Mr. Chapman invites us to rejoice at the prospect of this (according to him, the pill won’t effectively cause abortions, and will possibly help prevent some from taking place), and seems to regret the success of pro-life activists who have expended their energy successfully fighting its approval. It may be, as Mr. Chapman has it, that approving this drug could serve to prevent many “unwanted pregnancies,” and so prevent future abortions that will otherwise take place. If so, we might agree that this is a desirable and good result as far as it goes. But it does beg the question of what it means to be pro-life, if avowedly principled ‘pro-lifers’ can find any satisfaction in the existence of a drug whose sole purpose is to stymy procreation, which is one of essential purposes given by God to most men and women on earth. Contraception is surely a serious social evil, perhaps all the more serious because it is not taken all that seriously, and especially as it works to create a mentality that permits and encourages the sort of sexual and social anarchy of which abortion is the most gruesome consequence.

Recently I commented briefly on the new edition of Fr. John McGuckin’s study, Saint Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy, on the occasion of its being reviewed by First Things. My remarks on the book itself were preliminary, and I could not really take issue with any of the claims of the reviewer, Edward Oakes, S.J., as I had not read the relevant sections he was criticising. Now that I have finished McGuckin’s text (the second half of the volume being the translated texts of St. Cyril), I can elaborate on my earlier impressions and answer the criticisms in the review. Aside from its clear and focused narrative of the events surrounding the Council of Ephesos and the negotiations with the Oriental bishops, resulting in the so-called Formula of Union of 433, an excellent explanation of the respective Christologies of Nestorios and Cyril and a thoughtful consideration of the role of Cyril’s theology at Chalcedon, the book is to be heartily commended on three points.

First, it introduces in readily accessible, clear prose one of the great minds in all of Christian civilisation and strives mightily to vindicate St. Cyril from the various attacks and unfair criticisms that have been made against him and his theology. Second, it pulls no punches in its critique of Nestorios’ intellectual weaknesses and theological mistakes, and does not engage in the rather pitiful (and irrelevant) game of vainly trying to perceive orthodoxy in an erroneous doctrine, but nonetheless fairly engages with Nestorios as much as is possible on his own terms and still finds him (quite rightly) lacking in clarity, consistency and truth. Third, and perhaps most exciting of all for specialists working on this period, Fr. McGuckin has joined with one of the leading authorities on Chalcedon and its aftermath, Patrick Gray, in challenging a pervasive ‘orthodoxy’, if you will, in the scholarship on Cyril and Chalcedon, arguing not only that Chalcedon is compatible with Cyril but that in its language and conceptions its doctrine is fundamentally Cyrilline to its core and that Cyril was the standard of orthodoxy against which the Fathers of Chalcedon measured all other doctrinal claims.

An important consequence of Fr. McGuckin’s understanding of the fundamentally Cyrlline nature of Chalcedon is that neo-Chalcedonianism (a term applied to certain developments in sixth century Byzantine Chalcedonian theology) cannot be a compromise with the monophysite heresies. Chalcedon was already profoundly Cyrilline and its adherents would not have imagined that they needed to ‘appropriate’ him to win back dissidents, as the conventional story would have it.
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Immediately after the war the coalition embarked on a campaign of reconstruction in which it hoped to improve the electricity supply and the quality of drinking water.

That appears to have failed, with the poll showing that 71 per cent of people rarely get safe clean water, 47 per cent never have enough electricity, 70 per cent say their sewerage system rarely works and 40 per cent of southern Iraqis are unemployed. ~The Daily Telegraph

The reality is vastly different. A secret poll commissioned by the U.K. Ministry of Defence and leaked to the British press, shows that 82 percent are “strongly opposed” to the presence of foreign troops and 45 percent support attacks on them. Almost three-quarters of Iraqis, 72 percent, have “no confidence” in the foreign forces, and fewer than one per cent (!) think that continued military involvement by the United States and her allies is helping to improve security in their country. The nationwide survey reveals a staggering depth of anti-Western feeling that is not confined to any single region of Iraq. Even in the Shiite south, in Maysan province, 65 percent believe that attacks on foreign forces are justified. The poll’s results would appear suspect had they come from another source. They suggests that the battle to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people is already lost. As the Tory shadow defense minister commented, “the coalition is now part of the problem and not the solution.”

This being so, the question is how to end the war. That it can never be “won” in Mr. Bush’s sense (“We will never back down, we will never give in, we will never accept anything less than complete victory”) is obvious, but the President and his team appear alarmingly devoid of fresh or useful ideas. This was further confirmed in Pennsylvania last Friday by his near-verbatim repetition of a long (and flawed) discourse on terrorism that was initially read before the National Ewndowment for Democracy on October 6. ~Srdja Trifkovic

Read the the entire article to find Dr. Trifkovic’s much more realistic and sensible alternative.

France’s employment minister on Tuesday fingered polygamy as one reason for the rioting in the country.

Gérard Larcher said multiple marriages among immigrants was one reason for the racial discrimination which ethnic minorities faced in the job market. Overly large polygamous families sometimes led to anti-social behaviour among youths who lacked a father figure, making employers wary of hiring ethnic minorities, he explained.

The minister, speaking to a group of foreign journalists as the government stepped up efforts to improve its image with the foreign media, said: “Since part of society displays this anti-social behaviour, it is not surprising that some of them have difficulties finding work … Efforts must be made by both sides. If people are not employable, they will not be employed.” ~The Financial Times

While Warner insisted that his amendment was not intended in any way to embarrass the administration, numerous observers pointed out that its wording was based on a nearly identical Democratic proposal. The latter’s only difference was that it would have required the White House to provide more specific information in its reports, including “estimated dates for the phased redeployment” of U.S. troops out of Iraq.

Even Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a strong backer of the Iraq war who has consistently opposed setting any deadline for U.S. withdrawal, said the Warner Amendment’s passage marked a possible “turning point” in the Iraq war and the end of Congress’ acquiescence in its management by the Bush administration.

In several high-profile speeches over the past week, apparently designed to retake the political offensive, Bush and his national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, have insisted that Democrats had access to the same intelligence as the administration and reached the same conclusions about the threat allegedly posed by Iraq. But these counterattacks have so far drawn scorn from both their targets and independent political analysts.

“Bush is shooting blanks,” one congressional aide told IPS. ~Jim Lobe, Antiwar.com

Things have certainly changed. Two years ago, you could scarcely find an elected Republican who would say one word against Mr. Bush and his policies, and when any Republican did speak up it was largely intended to help cover Mr. Bush’s frequently self-exposed flanks. Even a year ago, Republican doubters were limited to making criticisms of certain aspects of the way Mr. Bush was carrying out his policy, but they would never take their criticisms to the Senate floor. The quibbling about tactics seems to be over among Republicans, and the polite sufferance of the incompetents in this administration has apparently come to an end. Mr. Bush’s repetitious, uninspiring arguments that have been rehashed and rehashed a hundred times since his fateful State of the Union speech in 2002 have even fallen flat with the majority of the men who have been his active accomplices in this ugly affair. It is well past time that something like this happened. For the GOP Senators, it reeks of political desperation and will not necessarily help them in the coming election year.

A British philosophy professor who has been a leading champion of atheism for more than a half-century has changed his mind. He now believes in God more or less based on scientific evidence, and says so on a video released Thursday.

At age 81, after decades of insisting belief is a mistake, Antony Flew has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Flew said in a telephone interview from England.

Flew said he’s best labeled a deist like Thomas Jefferson, whose God was not actively involved in people’s lives.

“I’m thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins,” he said. “It could be a person in the sense of a being that has intelligence and a purpose, I suppose.” ~ABC News

Hat tip to Brent Anderson (Reflections from Red Hill).

ID enthusiasts can take some small comfort that the argument-from-causation and argument-from-complexity have convinced a famous opponent that God must exist. Nonetheless, believing in God as First Cause does not imply any real belief. It is an acceptance of what appears to be logically necessary to account for the evidence. Logic may lead us to understanding of what we believe, and it may lead us to belief, but accepting the existence of a First Cause as a matter of logic is a world away from faith, which is precisely confidence in things unseen. The argument-from-complexity, while attractive to those of us who already believe, is not necessarily compelling to an atheist–it is reasonable for a physicist to believe in a highly complex system without accepting that it has been designed by anyone.

But Prof. Flew is living proof that, whatever Intelligent Design theory is worth (and I don’t think it’s worth very much if we’re speaking of it as a scientific theory and not as a philosophical argument), ID theory is potentially quite pernicious if it functions as a sort of intellectually respectable way to believe in the existence of God, minus the supposed “Oriental Despotism” of the Living God. Much like its cousin Deism, it conceives of God as operating through natural laws to such an extent that all one would see is the traces and never the Author. In fairness, Flew is not openly espousing ID, though he does note similarities between his view and ID theory. Nonetheless, the dangers of both are very similar.

Both set up an alternative theology, if you like, that allows people to acknowledge that, yes, God apparently does exist, but it need not have any real impact on what we are doing here on earth. It may well put religious indifference and a sort of functional atheism on a more solid philosophical footing. Perhaps Prof. Flew ought to conclude that, if God exists, there is a chance that He has revealed Himself in a more direct fashion, but there is nothing inherent in causality or complexity that compels him to believe that God is self-revealing. That is an understanding that comes, understandably enough, only from Scripture.

Indeed, it is a striking indication of the dominance of left-wing modes of thought in the West that the supreme political insult in the new world order is “authoritarian.” Authority is, by definition, a conservative notion – and that is why it is universally reviled in the West today. Without exception, every single political leader whom the West has removed, or tried to remove, in the last decade and a half, has been labelled “authoritarian” or “nationalist,” as if these right-wing vices were the only political sin. This malediction is bandied about, even when the leaders so attacked are in fact old lefties like Slobodan Milosevic, Alexander Lukashenko or Saddam Hussein.

In short, any state which pursues a policy of national independence will soon find itself in the West’s cross-hairs. The Clintonite doctrine that there are such things as “rogue states,” which has been effortlessly adopted by George W. Bush, means precisely this. There is an international and a domestic aspect to this hostility to the state: internationally, George Bush’s “forward strategy of freedom,” predicated as it is on the assumption that states have a right to enjoy their national sovereignty only under certain conditions, entails support for the anti-sovereignist dictates of punitive supranational law. In internal politics, the anti-state Marxist-Hegelian doctrine of “civil society” has become a central plank of Western thinking, at least for states it wishes to control. In Eastern Europe, for instance, supposed “non-governmental organisations” are invariably presented as being more authentic and objective representatives of popular opinion than the established, public, law-based structures of the state. This applies even when the so-called NGOs are in fact front organisations funded by Western governments, as is often the case. Indeed, the mere activity of “opposition” is, by itself, often elevated to a sort of political sainthood, as if the exercise of authority and power were intrinsically sinful. In one egregious case, in Georgia, the task of counting the votes in the January 2004 presidential election was given to just such a private NGO, with the established state authorities simply sidelined.

Like Marxists, indeed, and like many of his European friends, George Bush appears to believe both that freedom is an ineluctable “force of history” and also that it requires constant struggle to achieve it. He argues, like Hegel, Marx’s precursor, that humanity is one, and that a free state like the USA is not really free if other states live under tyranny. In his mind, old-fashioned American Puritan millenarianism marries easily with the missionary mentality of world revolutionists: “The survival of liberty in our land,” he said in January, “increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.” A true conservative, by contrast, would say that there is much evil in the outside world – and that the duty of a statesman is to hold it at bay. ~John Laughland, LewRockwell.com

Hat tip to The Ambler.

One funny point about self-conscious anachronisms: they can’t really decide where history should have stopped. In the same issue that feature Fleming regretting the fact that you are not pushing a plough has another writer bemoaning the loss of manufacturing jobs in Rockford, Illinois. Why? Maybe if we lose enough manufacturing jobs, everyone will have to go back to farming. What neither contributor sees is that both the loss of agricultural and manufacturing jobs represents progress in the march of the division of labor. It means the material advance of the human population.

It’s fine and great to love the eternal verities, be in awe of baroque churches, listen to the music of Josquin, master ancient poetry, recite poetry in Middle English. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use a cell phone, know Html, listen to a podcast, and spend your free time improving Wikipedia entries. We do not have to choose between modernism and antiquarian affections. Capitalism allows us to have it all. ~Jeffrey Tucker, Mises Economics Blog

To put it another way, it’s fine and great to love the eternal verities, as long as you don’t take them seriously or regard them as either eternal or true. Capitalism allows us to have a great many things, but it does not allow us to have a traditional, humane society and its attendant virtues. We know perfectly well that “material advancement” results from this system (at least for a while)–that is, if I may be so bold, precisely one of the things wrong with it. It assumes that endless material advancement is good in itself and that it has no serious, negative consequences for human life. There has always been a fundamental choice, which is ultimately as simple as the choice between indulgence and restraint, and blithely pretending that it doesn’t exist is a rather intellectually dishonest dodge of the issue.

We can “have it all” only in the sense that we can purchase things both old and new and maintain the fiction that we have nothing to lose but material deprivation, poor medicine and slow transportation. The cost of such “progress” is considerable, and it begins with the destruction of humane and well-ordered life. Simply put, man does not thrive, cultivate virtue or attain excellence in the modern city. He may possess a great many things, grow fat and live a life of ease, but the crucial point is that all of those things are regarded by the actual adherents of the eternal verities of our tradition as forms of vice, ruin and degradation. The “success” that libertarians and modernists of all kinds repeatedly point to for vindication is, I believe, exactly what the gentlemen at Chronicles find so objectionable.

One important reason why Jefferson prized the agrarian way of life as the mainstay of republican liberty was that it was the only way of life that warded off servility and dependency. It was impossible, he knew well, that men could retain their personal and political independence in the sort of society fostered by merchants and modern urban centers. Men can be self-reliant and self-sufficient, and thus maintain political independence, if they own their own land and support themselves with that land, or they can have one sort of master or another who will command his political loyalty and dictate the life of his community. If Mr. Tucker prefers that submission and dependency, that is hardly surprising, but what will not stand is the presumption that his view is somehow consonant with human freedom. It is not, and never has been.

Complete dependency is the state of each and every single person in a capitalist economy in a way that was simply not true of the old order. The Austrians have taught us to sell ourselves, so to speak, to commerce and consumerism based on the fiction (or is it a lie?) that these things represent a free way of life. These things are, if we are honest and philosophical, chains that are no different, as far as the person and healthy local society are concerned, from chains that shackle us to the state, and the two sets have tended over time to be mutually reinforcing. Commerce and consumerism may feel more satisfying, and they may “give the people what they want,” but an entire economic regime where self-indulgence is the guiding principle and chief good does not create free men. It is the great libertarian lie that the capitalist market and state are always necessarily antithetical to one another. Sometimes rivals, sometimes partners, the two perform a common task of breaking down all values and loyalties unless it is the value of efficiency or loyalty to the state.

Incidentally, I understand Scott Richert’s laments of the decline of American manufacturing as criticism of the current economic regime that is stripping away these last sources of stable, meaningful employment. In much the same way that Dr. Fleming acknowledges that the modern nation-state is in many ways artificial and too far removed from local and regional attachments, but nonetheless affirms the value of the nation-state in resisting the ravages of globalism and multinational exploitation, I believe Mr. Richert values American manufacturing as an element of national economic life that can potentially help to sustain the productivity and strength of the nation and thus as something to be preferred to the alternative of even worse dependency on foreign manufacturing and the reduction of Americans to even more inhumane and empty labour as service sector lackeys.

What never ceases to amaze me about our friends, the libertarians, is how materialistic they are in every sense of the word. In their scheme, rationality is equated with desire, acquisitiveness and the drive for more possessions. It is true that men have striven to improve their material circumstances throughout history. What is also true is that all of history has been subsequent to the Fall, and we should not necessarily take the common activity of fallen mankind as proof that such activity is either natural or desirable. Men have also slaughtered each other and dominated one another out of a desire for power–I doubt very much that the indulgence of these passions throughout history has many admirers or defenders over at the Mises Institute. What libertarians call rationality is what pagan philosophers saw as disordered desire (in fact, the abdication of reason and intellect) and what Christians used to recognise as the will of the flesh, something unnatural and contrary to rationality and spiritual well-being.

Colorization was condemned on moral grounds and driven out of practice, but, let’s face it: the upcoming generation won’t watch black-and-white films. Their eyes won’t focus on them. Kids these days will watch “Robin Hood” from 1938 because it’s in color, but they won’t black and white movies from the same year. All of those great old movies will be forgotten if they aren’t colorized.

The colorization technology has improved vastly over the last decade and a half, and it’s time to colorize films. Don’t mess with films like “Citizen Kane” where a strong effort was put into the b&w cinematography, but for the “Bringing Up Baby” movies, where the quality is in the script and acting, why not colorize them? ~Steve Sailer

Besides not seeing eye-to-eye with Mr. Sailer on a number of his film reviews (according to which The Last Samurai was PC and overwrought and Proof a success), I cannot agree with him that colourising old films is either desirable or necessary. In certain cases, where colour would enhance the richness of the visual experience, it might make sense. For instance, the sumptuous decoration of sets and costume in the Indian classic Mughal-e-Azam was completely lost in its original b-and-w version, and now that it has been restored and colourised it has become an even more attractive film. Do we really think that the colourised version of It’s a Wonderful Life has been an improvement, or simply a concession to the urge to update and change things that could be left well enough alone? There is nothing sacred about b-and-w films staying as they are, but I can’t see the advantage in changing them. Indeed, a colourised Casablanca would be an uglier, worse film, even if it were technically more vivid and realistic.

The argument that “the kids won’t watch” b-and-w films is not in the least compelling. The next generation may not watch classic films, but that is the result of their being raised on poor writing, idiotic plots, frequent explosions and other mindless sensory stimuli and the widespread use of CGI. Most (American) audiences cannot handle, or are not interested in, complex or even fairly witty dialogue, and the quality of film writing has slouched to meet the audience’s low expectations. The sad truth is that the next generation may not acquaint themselves with film classics because the classics are simply not fatuous and titillating enough.

But Patrice Ribeiro of the Synergie Officiers police union said that political ideology had handcuffed police during the last three decades, in effect handing over public housing to entrenched criminal networks that deal in drugs and stolen goods. The trend began with leftist governments in the 1980s and continued with rightist leaders, he said.

“For years, we had instructions not to go into the projects,” Ribeiro said. “There was an ideology that it was a provocation. So we left a lot of people with the idea that it was their turf and police weren’t supposed to intrude…. We abandoned all those people, and most of them are honest people. We abandoned them in neighborhoods that have rotted.”

Tensions rose after the center-right government wrested power from the Socialist Party in 2002 and Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy ordered police to reclaim turf from gangs and Islamic extremists who had become powerful in the cites. Most officers admire Sarkozy, calling him a rare leader who is in touch with street reality. ~The Los Angeles Times

In other words, Sarkozy’s attempts to rectify the mistakes of the Socialist government have run up against the forces that were allowed to establish and entrench themselves during a period of government indifference and cowardice. The strength of these slum gangs today is a direct result of the hands-off, “tolerant” approach of the left.

At such times, scattered phenomena come together to produce a mood of foreboding. I think, for example, of the growing impatience with the political process. When television becomes more powerful than parliaments, people quickly realise that the newsworthy gesture gets you more attention than years of lobbying and representation. Violence becomes photo-opportunity.

Then there is the collapse of the concept of national belonging, the feeling that we are all in this together and that the distress of some of us is a matter for all of us. Far from being a means of integration, multiculturalism has become a path to segregation. There are fewer mixed neighbourhoods, more urban and suburban ghettos. The ties that bind grow ever weaker. The forces that divide become stronger year by year.

Our sense of time seems to be changing. We live in the moment, with little feeling of connection to a national past and a collective future. News comes to us in soundbites. We experience events less as chapters in a novel than as a series of music videos, disconnected images bound together by rhythm not narrative, pace not plot. We are losing the long-term prospective that alone allows us to make sense of events and feel we are part of a collective story. ~Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks, Timesonline.co.uk

Hat tip to Andrew Stuttaford.

What do they have in common? They both believed that “water-boarding” wasn’t “anything close to torture.” More on the Khmer Rouge’s use of the “psychological interrogation technique” of waterboarding here. Here’s a picture of the Khmer Rouge doing something now authorized and endorsed by Dick Cheney. Imagine someone wearing the uniform of the United States doing this. And remember who authorized it. ~Andrew Sullivan

Andrew Sullivan has also attacked the administration’s position on torture with gusto in several other recent posts.

Now go back to that bland statistic you hear a lot these days: ‘about 10 per cent of France’s population is Muslim’. Give or take a million here, a million there, that’s broadly correct, as far as it goes. But the population spread isn’t even. And when it comes to those living in France aged 20 and under, about 30 per cent are said to be Muslim and in the major urban centres about 45 per cent. If it came down to street-by-street fighting, as Michel Gurfinkiel, the editor of Valeurs Actuelles, points out, ‘the combatant ratio in any ethnic war may thus be one to one’ — already, right now, in 2005. It is not necessary, incidentally, for Islam to become a statistical majority in order to function as one. At the height of its power in the 8th century, the ‘Islamic world’ stretched from Spain to India, yet its population was only minority Muslim. ~Mark Steyn, The Spectator (registration required)

Say what you will about Mark Steyn (and I could say quite a bit), but sometimes there are things so blatantly obvious that even he recognises them. He also occasionally manages to make a trenchant observation about the passing scene. Steyn makes the important distinction between what he calls “Islamification” (otherwise known as Islamicisation), which may be advanced by all kinds of action including riot and violence, and jihad, which is a particular kind of Islamic action.

He may go too far to say that the riots aren’t necessarily “about jihad.” Many of the Muslims in the riots may be “secular and Westernised and into drugs,” but it is these who are most susceptible to the appeal of a radical return to Islam. Strictly speaking, many of the rioters are not what we would readily recognise as jihadis in the sense that they are not strict religious fanatics. Then again, several of the September 11 terrorists were not necessarily the most abstemious characters, and jihadis have found a virtue of having members who can readily imitate Western habits. However, a Muslim’s moral laxity and Westernisation should not immediately be taken as proof that he has not accepted the concept of jihad as a way to legitimise violent cultural and political change.

Perhaps not unlike some modern Christians, who value Christianity because they believe it endorses their political or economic values or who endorse the just war tradition because they think it gives them a blank check for starting wars, these Westernised Muslims could latch on to the militant and violent components of Islamic teaching, central as they are to Islam and its history, and adopt the concept of jihad for their own specific purposes. It is one of the political strengths of Islam as a creed that it is extremely simple and capable of bearing myriad meanings because it is subject to no real institutional or doctrinal authority, and it is combined with a spirit and mentality of conflict and militancy that can be very seductive for young men bereft of purpose or meaning.

For non-Muslims to draw artificial lines and declare that, “such and such is jihad, and such and such is not” is to miss the point that all of a Muslim’s life is understood in terms of jihad, which is a struggle for Allah both spiritual and physical (and the two are not separable). Insofar as someone is a Muslim, and is conscious of being such, any political conflict in which he is involved takes on the aspect of jihad. Whereas Christian monastics might also speak of spiritual warfare, Islam makes no real differentiation between spiritual and physical warfare, and indeed as I understand it such a real differentiation would be considered a kind of hypocrisy. Unlike examples from Christian knighthood, where participation in warfare was understood as a kind of self-sacrifice and penance, Islamic physical warfare is cast in terms of subjugation and domination. It is part and parcel of the submission of the one who submits (Muslim) that he causes others submit to the rule of Islam.

Far from not being “about jihad,” the French intifada, like its Palestinian forerunner, could easily be importing the language and ideas of Islamic jihad to suit the perceived political needs of Muslims in France. Whether or not their jihad is consciously Islamist in exactly the sense that al-Qaeda’s is, it is jihad because it is a political struggle of Muslims and the language of jihad is the language of the tradition from which these Muslims are drawing their inspiration and identity. Arguably, just as religious and political duties overlap and are inextricably intertwined in Islam, any political struggle in which Muslims are involved will never really be outside the framework of “struggling in the path of Allah” and the physical and political violence inherent in that struggle from the beginning of Islamic history.

Unless the multiculturalist policy — which has been indirectly facilitating the separatist agenda of radical Islamists — is reversed immediately, we shall wake up and find we have sleepwalked into a situation of apartheid and segregation. If we sleep long enough, we may even wake up to find that, like Paris, London is burning. Or that we are living in an Islamic state. ~Patrick Sookhdeo, The Spectator (registration required)

The Muslim writer Amir Taheri, tackling the question of ‘Why Paris is Burning’, described how France’s policy of assimilation began to fail when (Muslim) immigrants grouped themselves in concentrated areas. The resulting alienation, says Taheri, opens the way for radical Islamists to promote religious and cultural apartheid. Some are even calling for Muslim majority areas to become like an Ottoman millet, i.e., to organise their own social, cultural and educational life in accordance with their religious beliefs. In parts of France, says Taheri, a de facto millet system is already in place, seen in Islamic headdress, Islamic beards, Islamic control of the administration, and the elimination of cinemas, dance halls and shops selling alcohol and pork.

The Muslim community in France is well on the way to becoming a millet, a state within a state. The only substantive goal still outstanding is the implementation of Islamic law (Shariah) instead of French law.

Muslims in France have by and large rejected the concept of the integration of individuals and are working instead for the integration of communities. The same is happening in the UK, where the concept of multiculturalism has long been popular. ~Patrick Sookhdeo, The Spectator (registration required)

I’m always a little dubious of these demographic extrapolations; what should be a genuine worry, however, is the extremely high Muslim populations transnationally in northwestern Europe and their demands for separation. There are a string of towns and cities, from Rennes in the south, through Lille, Brussels, Antwerp, Zeebrugge, Rotterdam, Bremen to Aarhus in Denmark in the far north, where the Muslim population approaches or exceeds 20 per cent (and in some cases constitutes a majority). Drawn on a map, these gritty and largely depressed urban conurbations fittingly describe an almost perfect crescent across the North Sea seaboard of Europe, a crescent of growing Islamic influence.

There have been some excited proclamations from within the Muslim communities that these places might one day — and not too far in the future — form an Islamic caliphate; what the scaremongering Yankees refer to as Eurabia. And the problem is that the creed of multiculturalism has encouraged such aspirations and, as a result, confidence is growing within Islam that the antithetical ideologies of such intransigently liberal states as Holland and Belgium and Denmark can be taken on and beaten. This is why the Dutch have suddenly got angry, banned the burka and torched a few mosques. Why the Danes have become infuriated recently at attempted Muslim censorship.

The French, however, remain different. Vive la différence and so on. Of all the countries in Western Europe, they have pursued the most extreme form of that discredited ideology, multiculturalism, and now they are witnessing the result. It is partly the sheer weight of numbers of its Muslim population and partly the insouciance with which they regarded the notion of separate development. Right now, everyone — Muslim and Christian — is up in arms. ~Rod Liddle, The Spectator

Rejecting the burblings of many a foolish neocon and liberal, Mr. Liddle has hit the mark in connecting the crisis in France with the French embrace of multiculturalism. Or, more precisely, it is the belated addition of multiculturalism to an earlier approach that denies and ignores particular cultural identities as meaningful categories. It is this multiculturalism that assumes, very much like our own, that cultural identity does not really command the loyalty of people–only political ideas and institutions and economic structures could possibly mean anything.

Even after everything we ought to have learned over the last 15 years about the capacity of ethnic and religious loyalties to motivate and inspire people to both solidarity and violence, our pundits have done everything possible to explain most conflicts of these kinds in terms of economic deprivation, political structures or prejudice. Much like Mr. Bush’s pathetic attempts to disentangle Islamist violence from Islam itself, which actually tends to belittle and demean religion in general as something essentially private and irrelevant to political life, these attempts to ignore the power of cultural and ethnic identities have caused these pundits to miss the most essential elements of contemporary conflicts.

It is not only that liberal pundits and journalists are embarrassed to report that Muslims are rioting in France and are identifying their actions with their identity as Muslims, which tends to make nonsense of their belief in the virtues and efficacy of tolerance and diversity. They are even more embarrassed that there are people who, given the chance in a Western country to become deracinated, secular, spiritually dead people like them, find meaning in something else, however deficient and pernicious it may be from a Christian perspective, and who choose to remain what they are rather than abandon it for a fairly empty civic life.

The fragmentation of a society into sharply divided cultural and ethnic groups follows quickly upon the belief that culture and ethnicity mean nothing more than ethnic food, amusing costumes and the occasional festive parade. That is the superficial, ignorant multiculturalism that we were taught in school in the ’90s. When violent upheaval comes, as it very well could, my generation will be as bewildered and stupified by it as Dominique de Villepin has been by the last two weeks of rioting. For those who underestimate or deny the powerful draw cultural and ethnic identities have, it is impossible to know how to discern the causes or handle the problems of cultural and ethnic conflict. My generation is uniquely unqualified, by and large, to understand these problems thanks to the extensive disinformation campaign that passed for our formative education.

Contrary to Eugene Robinson of the Post, a multiculturalist does not accept, much less understand, cultural diversity–he minimises it, makes a joke out of it, and then sets it aside. The hideous word multiculturalism itself conjures up the image of a movie multiplex, where culture is simply a form of entertainment, a sort of pastime, and the snack bar has quite a few exotic options. Such a multiculturalism does not “work” to integrate different peoples: it is a steady drain on every attempt to do so. It sets cultures side by side in meaningless comparison, as if knowing a few ‘fun facts’ about Thai cuisine, Persian poetry or North African Rai music could ever help in creating a working modus vivendi with Thais, Persians or North Africans. Thus Mr. Robinson can idiotically recommend that we embrace Spanish as our second language, as if France would be better off today had it publicly made Arabic its second language! By all means, make language rights a live, contentious political issue–it worked so well for the Habsburgs! Perhaps if only the French knew more of the history of the Aghlabids, they could sit together at the table of brotherhood with Algerians and Tunisians! That is ridiculous.
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So, in a sense, those social commentators on the French evening news were right: there is a lamentable lack of discourse between the two communities. But the suspicion persists that it is the North Africans who do not wish for integration — much as they might whine about a lack of employment opportunities — even more than the indigenous French. The black youths I spoke to in Grigny, hooded and furtive, lurking in the stairwell of a particularly noisome concrete development, mentioned ‘jihad!’ three times in the course of a very brief and slightly scary exchange. They were entirely supportive of the rioters and made the usual contemptuous noises about the police and — when reminded who he was — the French interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy (who had recently described the rioters as ‘scum’).

It may well be that the motive for the rioting was nothing more than an inchoate grievance allied to youthful exuberance and a penchant for bad behaviour, but it was Islam which gave it an identity and also its retrospective raison d’être. The political aspirations of many French Muslim organisations and explicitly of the most important political Islamic organisation on the Continent, the Arab European League, is for much greater segregation, for Verwoerd’s ideal of separate development — the very essence, to my mind, of racism. The appalling Arab European League, in fact, likens assimilation or integration to ‘rape’ and calls upon all Muslims to resist such cultural imperialism. And the director of the Great Mosque of Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, who delivered that nice fatwa, has seemed to request that the French government give Muslims autonomy within the state; to, in effect, allow them to follow their own rules. So for those pundits on French TV, apologies, but au contraire: the French Muslims do not, as a whole, want greater integration. They want less integration. ~Rod Liddle, The Spectator (registration required)

Apartheid is a word liberals and neocons love to use to frighten children and “conservative” voters. It is an Afrikaans Dutch word that means “separation” or “separateness,” which is exactly what it looks like it should mean. It has the same meaning as our word segregation. It entered our everyday lexicon in English probably no earlier than the 1980s, when ending the South African system of enforced racial separation became the cause celebre of the international left. Its pejorative usage today implies that, but for white-imposed apartheid or segregation, different peoples would normally mingle and socially integrate. Of course, in post-apartheid South Africa, as in post-segregation America and now on the frontiers of “Eurabia,” this does not happen, because it is something that no group of people desires or welcomes. That is, of course, provided that the group in question wishes to preserve itself, and all healthy cultural and ethnic groups seek to preserve and reproduce themselves and their ways of life.

That is the normal, indeed natural and generally good instinct that artificial attempts to integrate and assimilate entire groups try to suppress and eliminate. Such integration is possible, but only at expense of much of the old identity. What we see instead in France is a case of Muslim immigrants becoming more intent on preserving their identity in an alien land, as most never had any intention of becoming French as the French themselves are if this meant ceasing to be who they were before. What is happening in France is what will always happen in the wake of unchecked, mass immigration. It is what happens when immigrants prefer apartheid.

This desire for less integration or, really, non-integration is quite understandable. Few traditional societies imagine that men with different cults or from different tribes, to say nothing of entire ethnicities and races, either can or should live cheek-by-jowl with one another. In truth, they cannot without sacrificing much of their loyalty to their ancestral cult, tribe or people, and most people, if they ponder it long enough, will realise that this sacrifice is not desirable or ethical.

The implications for immigration policy are clear enough: much as Enoch Powell affirmed decades before, small numbers of immigrants can be, and have been, successfully incorporated into their new societies, while mass influxes will create unassimilable islands of alienated ethnic and religious minorities. These minorities will, quite naturally and predictably, turn in on themselves and rely upon their own identity as a means of group protection and preservation. Mass immigration guarantees the impossibility of assimilation or integration. Mass immigration almost inevitably leads to apartheid, and this is an apartheid that the immigrants desire every bit as much as, if not more than, the natives.

Almost six in 10 now say Bush is not honest, and a similar number say his administration does not have high ethical standards.

During his re-election bid in 2004, Bush skillfully wove the public’s trust of him and faith in his handling of the terror threat into a winning campaign over Democrat John Kerry.

Now, 56 percent disapprove of the way Bush is handling foreign policy and the war on terrorism, the poll found. Overall, 37 percent approve of the job Bush is doing as president. ~Yahoo News (AP)

We’re supposed to be spreading “democracy” and “freedom” throughout the Middle East, according to this administration and its Washington amen corner, but how is human liberty advanced by frying Iraqi civilians with incendiary phosphorous bombs [video]?

If that isn’t a war crime, then nothing is.

Check out the whole video, produced by the Italian station RAI, here – and you tell me if we haven’t descended into barbarism.

This ideological window-dressing, however, becomes less convincing as the true ugliness and brutality of the war is brought home to the American people. I was struck by what one of the American GIs said in the Italian video: the Fallujah operation was all about “killing Arabs” in large numbers. This, it seems to me, gets at the essential goal of the invasion and occupation of Iraq: it is a targeted mass slaughter. Its purpose is to terrorize not only the people of Iraq, but the entire region, and Muslims worldwide. Submit –or this will happen to you.

This war has become one prolonged act of state terrorism, and anyone who continues to support it – now that the full horror of American military tactics has been exposed – becomes a pro-terrorist fellow-traveler. I don’t know if Dante reserved a special rung of Hell for such people, but if not, it should be fairly close to the bottom of the infernal pit. ~Justin Raimondo, Antiwar.com

But the only committee investigating the matter in Congress, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has not yet done its inquiry into whether officials mischaracterized intelligence by omitting caveats and dissenting opinions. And Judge Laurence H. Silberman, chairman of Bush’s commission on weapons of mass destruction, said in releasing his report on March 31, 2005: “Our executive order did not direct us to deal with the use of intelligence by policymakers, and all of us were agreed that that was not part of our inquiry.”

Bush, in Pennsylvania yesterday, was more precise, but he still implied that it had been proved that the administration did not manipulate intelligence, saying that those who suggest the administration “manipulated the intelligence” are “fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community’s judgments.”

In the same speech, Bush asserted that “more than 100 Democrats in the House and the Senate, who had access to the same intelligence, voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power.” Giving a preview of Bush’s speech, Hadley had said that “we all looked at the same intelligence.”

But Bush does not share his most sensitive intelligence, such as the President’s Daily Brief, with lawmakers. Also, the National Intelligence Estimate summarizing the intelligence community’s views about the threat from Iraq was given to Congress just days before the vote to authorize the use of force in that country.

In addition, there were doubts within the intelligence community not included in the NIE. And even the doubts expressed in the NIE could not be used publicly by members of Congress because the classified information had not been cleared for release. For example, the NIE view that Hussein would not use weapons of mass destruction against the United States or turn them over to terrorists unless backed into a corner was cleared for public use only a day before the Senate vote. ~The Washington Post

In my remarks yesterday on Mr. Bush’s Veterans’ Day speech, I did not address the most brazen revisionist claims that he had made regarding the unanimity of pre-war intelligence assessments and their supposed “consensus” about Iraqi WMDs. The suppression of the NIE view that Iraq would not use its (imaginary) WMDs or give them to terrorists unless threatened with the very regime change Mr. Bush was threatening is clear manipulation of intelligence in the public debate. Any member of Congress who voted for war with that knowledge is, of course, as guilty as Mr. Bush, but their shared guilt does make Mr. Bush somehow less culpable for pushing his fraudulent case for invasion.

The claim that Iraq would ever use such weapons against America, had it possessed them, was always the most incredible and absurd idea, and the NIE, slip-shod and politically dictated as it seems it must have been, shows that even our own intelligence agencies understood this much. Without the likely threat of use or transfer to terrorists (the latter being highly implausible in itself), Iraqi possession of these weapons always should have been a matter of supreme indifference to the United States. Obviously, even if there had been a serious intent to attack the United States, which seems ridiculous on its face, the deterrent of our overwhelming conventional and nuclear arsenals would have made it all moot.

Political theorists take note: Mr. Bush’s invocation of Congress’ involvement in his scheme is a perfect example how an autocrat uses consultation and “consent” as a shield to evade responsibility and abuse his power by making the legislative body an accomplice to his crimes. If the legislators are foolish or cowardly enough to acquiesce in this, the autocrat will be successful in escaping the retribution that he is due.

In fact, we’re not facing a set of grievances that can be soothed and addressed. We’re facing a radical ideology with inalterable objectives to enslave whole nations and intimidate the world. No act of ours invited the rage of killers, and no concession, bribe or act of appeasement would change or limit their plans for murder. On the contrary, they target nations whose behavior they believe they can change through violence. Against such an enemy, there is only one effective response — we will never back down, we will never give in, we will never accept anything less than complete victory! ~George W. Bush, November 11, 2005

Some call this evil “Islamic radicalism,” others “militant jihadism” and still others “Islamofacism.” Whatever it’s called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam. This form of radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision — the establishment by terrorism, subversion and insurgency of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom. These extremists distort the idea of jihad into a call for terrorist murder against Christians and Hindus and Jews and against Muslims themselves who do not share their radical vision. ~George W. Bush, November 11, 2005

So it is Islam that has been exploited! But how can Mr. Bush even attempt to maintain that we struggling with Islamic radicalism and not with Islam? Whence arises Islamic radicalism, if not from Islam? At a basic level of semantics and logic, Mr. Bush’s statement is nonsense. Even if it were the case that radical interpretations of jihad and Islam generally are not shared by most Muslims, it is fatuous to pretend that these interpretations are not as Islamic in origin and character as any other. They might well be considered heterodox (however, I do not believe anyone can show that they are considered as such by a broad majority of Muslim jurists), but there is nonetheless something inherent in Islam upon which they can readily draw to make their arguments (and anyone familiar with the Qur’an knows well that it is not at all difficult to find some ready justification for what they have been doing).

While the comparisons between Islamists and 20th century totalitarians always seem to me to be overblown, the comparison may be useful here. Imagine someone saying (indeed, more than a few have said) that Soviet or Maoist communism is “very different” from what Marxism or ‘true’ socialism requires, and that the Leninist-Stalinist system was a perversion of communism (would Mr. Bush call it an “ideology of peace”?). Many a Trotskyite, communist sympathiser, liberal and naive American have said this very thing, and it was no more credible in that case. Imagine someone claiming that Hitler betrayed the spirit of National Socialism by starting revanchist and expansionist wars (perhaps Hitler didn’t speak for all the peaceful Nazis)–he would presumably be laughed out of the room. But today we are supposed to believe that a religion that has expanded for virtually all of its history by means of the sword and political conquest, and which has a doctrine that legitimises violence for a very broadly construed “defense” and expansion of the House of Islam, has no fundamental and integral connection to political violence? This is simply idiocy, and unfortunately it passes for the reigning political wisdom.

For the fourth time in six months, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick is in Sudan, trying to pressure the government and tribal militias to stop the killing in the Darfur region, but he warned the United States can’t “clean it up.”

Zoellick has been to Sudan more than he’s been to any other country this year and, he points out, even more than he’s been to New York. And he’s brought along some White House firepower: top presidential policy adviser Michael Gerson is here with him. But in a blunt speech at Khartoum University, Zoellick warned that neither the U.S. nor the international community can come to the rescue.

“It’s a tribal war,” Zoellick said. “And frankly I don’t think foreign forces want to get in the middle of a tribal war of Sudanese.”

“I don’t think we can clean it up because it’s not just a question of ending violence, it’s a question of creating the context for peace,” Zoellick said. ~ABC News

Thank goodness for some common sense in this administration! If only Mr. Zoellick’s phrase (”we can’t clean it up”) were used more often in response to cries for U.S. intervention.

The reason the United States must act to stop the genocide is because, as Martin Luther King said, “Man’s inhumanity to man is not only perpetuated by the vitriolic action of those who are bad, it is also perpetuated by the vitiating inaction of those who are good.”

The United States is thus far the only nation to use the word “genocide” to describe the acts of mass extermination taking place in Darfur. This declaration, made by President Bush over one year ago, brings with it the responsibility to respond, not only because inaction perpetuates “man’s inhumanity to man,” but also because it undermines the moral tenets, and thus the moral credibility, of current U.S. foreign policy whose central principle is the enhancement of the natural and inalienable rights of all men. Continued inaction in Darfur can thus be seen as imperiling every other foreign mission the United States undertakes. ~Daniel Allott, Brainwash

In addition to wondering how one enhances natural and inalienable rights (if they are natural and inalienable, how can they be diminished or enhanced?), I am left perplexed by Mr. Allott’s article. It perplexes me that Mr. Allott, a policy analyst for Gary Bauer’s American Values organisation, believes that political (and perhaps military?) intervention in Darfur is not only desirable in some theoretical way, but actually imperative for the credibility of our foreign policy. Granting that Mr. Bauer and his organisation undoubtedly have a funny way of understanding the design of the Founders (”a distinctly American faith in democracy”!) and what constitutes “American values,” I am still left wondering what sense American involvement in Darfur makes.

A few assumptions need to be tested. Does our foreign policy have “moral tenets,” or more accurately do the people who make that policy adhere to moral tenets when they make it? Undoubtedly, they believe that they are acting morally, and we are all familiar with the boilerplate justifications for aggression and meddling in the affairs of others that they routinely give: freeing the oppressed, lifting up the downtrodden, etc. I am convinced that the men who make policy must have justice foremost in their minds, as a standard against which to measure the means and ends of their policies, and not as a pretext to be used, as it is used now (and has usually been used in government), to justify whatever cynical and hegemonic ploy strikes their fancy.

But is it actually moral or just to use the superior power of a stronger government to dictate the internal affairs of another people? If we understand justice as each minding his own business, it impossible to see it as moral or just. If it is the justice of giving each according to his due, dealing out such justice is reserved to God alone, as only He can determine what is each man’s proper due. Unless the people who are being abused are our own people (those to whom we have some real physical, social or political connection or with whom we share a common faith), who are they to us and we to them that we should act on their behalf?

Who are the Muslims of Darfur in relation to us, and who are we to them? If we were in their position and they were in a position to come to our aid, simply for the sake of coming to our aid because it is theoretically “the right thing to do,” I would tell them to go back to their homes and tend to their families. I know I would not need to tell them this, as it would never occur to the Muslim in Darfur to lend a helping hand to an infidel on the other side of the world. It might occur to him to lend assistance to other Muslims on the other side of the world, but that makes perfect sense. What Mr. Allott proposes we do does not. As most peoples down through history have understood, our fight not be “their fight,” just as the struggle and plight of the Muslims of Darfur is not ours. A sane and well-ordered world is much more likely to result from following this simple notion.
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To such as Peters, killing Muslims in lands they have occupied for centuries is noble and advances the cause of “freedom” and “democracy,” but merely failing to give them special privileges in Europe, where their invasions were once repulsed by the valor of such men as Charles Martel and John Sobieski, is evil and “racist.”~ Tom Piatak, Cultural Revolutions Online (Chronicles)

Of Bedouin origins, Zarqawi was born and raised in a working class section of Zarqa, Jordan’s second-largest city. After a brief spell as a petty criminal, he went to Afghanistan but arrived too late to fight the Soviets. In Afghanistan, he embraced radical Salafism, a creed that calls for a total rejection of Western values and influence. Arrested in Jordan for his subversive ideas, he spent five years in prison. This experience transformed him into one of many jihadists, with a handful of followers. In 2000, in Kandahar, he met Osama bin Laden for the first time, but rejected the Saudi’s offer to become part of al-Qaeda. Zarqawi was not prepared to fight against the U.S.; instead, he wanted to wage his struggle against the Jordanian government. This became the purpose of the modest training camp that he ran in Herat, near the Iranian border, where he mainly trained recruits for suicide missions.

But it was on Feb. 5, 2003, when Colin Powell described him to the UN Security Council as the fictitious link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, that Zarqawi achieved global stardom. Since then, his myth has grown exponentially in both the West and the East. ~Loretta Napoleoni, Antiwar.com

Dr. Napoleoni’s article is a fine summary of the fraudulent creation of Zarqawi as the supposed pre-war al-Qaeda operative linking Hussein to international, anti-American terrorism. Debunking the mythology woven around Zarqawi, the allegedly one-legged terrorist who managed to be surprisingly mobile and elusive (it helped that the stories about his amputation were simply fictitious), is a vital first step in casting asunder the notion that Zarqawi’s present nominal adherence to al-Qaeda at the moment is anything other than recent, rank opportunism made possible by the war based in part on the original lie that Zarqawi represented the Iraq-terrorism link. As many antiwar writers, including myself, have argued, the stories told about Zarqawi by this administration have been based on the same sort of unreliable information and self-serving propaganda of Near Eastern political factions that the INC used to pull us into this war in the first place.

Incidentally, it hardly helps the warmongers’ case that Zarqawi was convicted of crimes in absentia on less evidence than their man, Chalabi, was after he had fled the country following his royal fleecing of Jordan’s banking system. This must be embarrassing for them, especially considering how vehemently they have objected to antiwar pundits’ using his conviction to reveal Chalabi for the hustler and con-man that he undoubtedly is.

Particularly interesting is Dr. Napoleoni’s discussion of more recent events:

Why was the man who in early 2000 was rejected by al-Qaeda [emphasis mine] so keen to get Osama bin Laden’s approval? The answer rests in the fact that contrary to what Powell had told the Security Council, Zarqawi was virtually unknown before the war. A working-class Bedouin from Zarqa leading a group of foreign fighters, he lacked the religious authority to rally the Iraqi Sunni population around him. He desperately needed legitimacy, and Osama bin Laden was the only one who could help him obtain it.

More tellingly, the lies about Zarqawi that helped make the war possible and raise him to prominence have helped pave the way for Zarqawi to become the international terrorist leader that the administration invented:

America’s obsession with his myth helped him obtain the endorsement he craved, by blaming him for every attack inside and outside Iraq, especially suicide missions and the resistance in Fallujah. In December 2004, bin Laden finally granted his support and named him “emir” of al-Qaeda in Iraq. That in turn has enabled the Jordanian to attract enough followers and resources to engage U.S. forces while keeping up the relentless succession of suicide bombings against Shi’ites that has brought Iraq to the brink of civil war.

On Nov. 9, 2005, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi fulfilled the prophecy expressed years earlier by the Jordanian authorities, the Kurdish secret service, and the U.S. government: he turned the myth into a chilling reality. From a small-town bully, to a small-fry jihadist, to the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, he fully exploited the legend woven around his person. While back in February 2003 he was an insignificant jihadist, today he is the undisputed most-wanted terror leader. Tragically, what we have created seems to be well beyond our ability to subdue.

More than America, France expects immigrants, no matter their color or creed, to assimilate — to become French. America, which calls itself a melting pot, is really a soup; its immigrant groups have generally retained some of their original culture and affected their new homeland as much as they were affected by it.

Not so in France. In schools, the standard history curriculum begins with the words, “Nos ancêstres, les Gaulois” (”Our ancestors, the Gauls,” the pre-national tribe) — no matter that many of the students’ ancestors come from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

“The attitude is that the people are French before they are anything else,” says Nicolas de Boisgrollier, a Frenchman and visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center on the United States and Europe.

This helps explain why affirmative action — a policy prescription that could help move France’s immigrants and their descendants into mainstream society — is even more controversial in France than in the USA: It cuts against the notion that France already embodies its ideal — a nation of legally indistinguishable individuals. ~USA Today

This USA Today article is more useful for what it can tell us about American assumptions and prejudices about our own immigration myths and problems than it is for telling us about anything going on in France. The claim that our immigrant groups have affected American culture as much as they have been affected by it is simply an ideological statement. The effect most immigrant groups have had on American culture is, one sense, quite minimal. Aside from adding to the variety of restaurants, most ethnic groups here have either largely dissolved (if they are European in origin) or embraced the watered-down civic identity that has defined being American for roughly a century. Historically, most American immigrants retain little of their ancestral heritage–language usually fades out by the third generation, and customs tend to drop out soon thereafter. If there is a strong communal commitment to a particular church or religious institution, this may help prolong the process of dissolution, but it occurs all the same.

What is different about post-1965 immigration, and the reason why immigration has become a crisis for this country, is that the new waves of immigrants now actively and consciously maintain and preserve their cultural traditions, partly because of the myth Americans tell themselves about how their ancestors were likewise able to maintain dual identities. In fact, our ancestors largely did not do this. Some ethnic groups maintained closer, sentimental connections with their old country longer, but between social pressure to assimilate and the immigrants’ own desire to become American these attachments soon weakened and frayed. There is actually much to be lamented in this, not least the homogenous, vacuous sense of American identity held by many people now, but that is not what concerns us here today.

I suspect that the French have had some trouble handling the problems of cultural integration because it seems to me that they have approached the matter very juridically and in accordance with false liberal assumptions about man and society. Culture is not the external trappings and dress of a man, but something that has the capacity to pervade and define him. It is not something that can be swapped out or changed over voluntarily, as someone who imagines society to be a contract among equal individuals might think. It seems that the French have come to think that if everyone becomes a citoyen, everyone will adopt the habits of other citoyens, but they have the process the wrong way round.

The French have officially retained a sense of ethnicity defined, as it must be, by common descent from the Gauls (and here the article is at least accurate), but they have made no attempt to account for how the immigrants are supposed to be adopted into this Gallic lineage or whether it is really desirable that they be adopted. Indifferent to a substantial cultural or national identity of their own defined by anything other than juridical and political claims, I submit that the French have become incapable of coping with the dynamics of relations between cultures.

France is now paying the price for a stagnant economy that fails to create jobs, an inability to assimilate mostly North African migrants, and an expensive social safety net that inhibits growth. The one glimmer of hope amid the wreckage is that the rioting could become the trigger that finally convinces the French that economic change is a necessity, not a luxury.

“The social model is one of the reasons for the riots,” said Johnny Munkhammar, a director of the Swedish research organization Timbro in Stockholm, and the author of a new book on Europe’s social security systems, in a telephone interview. “It worsens the problem because it creates so much unemployment. It shuts the door on these people, and locks them up in ghettos where they aren’t able to do anything apart from live on contributions from the state.” ~Matthew Lynn, Bloomberg

The latest buzz online about the French riots has been some variant on the theme that it is France’s integration policy that has been tested and found wanting. This is true in the sense that there has been no real cultural integration for many immigrants and their children, but it is simply ridiculous if we mean either that the French have been too assimilationist, as some of our libertarian friends seem to think, or that the French government actively bars the way for immigrants and their children out of some “racist” repression. France’s integration policy has not failed, because there has never been a serious drive for cultural integration in French society. This is not because of some endemic racism attributed to the French by the hateful Ralph Peters, but because whole generations that have now grown up with the lunatic notion that all men are basically the same and all cultures are equally valuable and also perfectly fungible and thus irrelevant.

Here the government elites alone cannot really be blamed–legally and politically, all French citizens possess the same protections, and these immigrants and their children receive social services and subsidies from the state just like anyone else. If there is widespread discrimination, it falls to immigrant communities to engage in self-help. To this extent the social model of France, where everyone grows up with the expectation of being taken care of, is a significant part of the problem, as it apparently instills an expectation that the problems of the immigrant communities in France are the government’s problem to solve.

Certainly French economic stagnation is an aggravating factor to the lack of integration, but there is more serious poverty, economic inequality and conscious communalism and non-integration in many other parts of the world without explosions of urban unrest such as we have seen over the past two weeks. It cannot help that these immigrants come from cultures that have evidently not inculcated the peculiar habits needed to create flourishing economic life, especially when they are coming to a country such as France where economic life is extensively regulated and controlled, but what cannot be forgotten is that the burden of becoming integrated into a host country is on the immigrants.

The American experience is testimony to this: there were no policies or programs or conscious efforts to integrate foreigners, but as a matter of course and practicality immigrants did assimilate to the native culture to the extent that it was necessary to function and to be accepted, over time, as legitimate Americans. To the extent that being American was taught to them, this was accomplished somewhat through public education, but the efficacy of this presupposed a willingness to accept, at least as far as public life was concerned, essentially all the trappings and habits of Americans (regardless of whether one prayed and spoke in another language at home).

This ready integration was historically much easier for those communities that had a great deal in common with the people already here, and here the radically different ethnicity and religion of immigrants in France are decisive in preventing integration. This is not simply because, as French nationalists maintain, these people are genuinely unassimilable, but because they are unassimilable because they do not wish to assimilate. Official encouragement of maintaining cultural differences, represented by such absurdities as the celebration of the diversity of the 1998 champion soccer team as a symbol of the ‘new France’, has removed the necessary pressure from the native French to force that assimilation.

If the immigrant’s native culture is integral to who he is, being French cannot very well also be integral to who he is. There might be any number of superficial levels of assimilation available to him, but so long as he is intent on preserving his culture as an entire way of life, as something far beyond the American ethnic preservation of ethnic foods and the occasional customary festival, he cannot become part of the French to his own satisfaction. He will always feel as if he is on the outside, because he is and because a part of him always desires to be just outside. Fundamentally, however, aliens cannot be alienated from that which was never theirs.

Immigrant groups that are generally renowned for their enterprise, commercial acumen and success, such as minority Chinese, Armenians or Indians, are also typically very good at integrating themselves into the host country to the extent that it is necessary to succeed. Immigrant groups, or minority groups more generally, that fail to integrate do so, all other things being equal, because they do not desire to become integrated, because they fear losing an identity that they prize more than the benefits of integration. That this has a self-limiting and ghettoising effect is not in doubt, but we should remember that some people, indeed some entire nations, prefer a ghetto to the risk of losing who they are.

Entrepreneurial spirit is not something that simply goes with the territory of being an immigrant, so it is not something that should necessarily be expected. Immigrants may all desire better lives, but that does not mean they know how to go about achieving them–if they did, they might very well have stayed at home.

The current phase of France’s immigrant insurgency — with riots in 300 cities and towns — will sputter out eventually. But any return to peace will be a false peace. France has been changed irrevocably. The internal enemy created by Gallic bigotry has been mobilized.

Desperate apologists for France’s apartheid system claim that the present uproar is merely about youthful anger, that Muslim fundamentalism isn’t in play. Just wait. Islamist extremists aren’t stupid. Thrilled by this spontaneous uprising, they’ll move to exploit the fervor of the young to serve their own ends.

Expect terror. Whether the current violence ebbs tonight or lasts for weeks to come, the uprising of the excluded and oppressed in the streets of France has only begun.

Meanwhile, every American who believes in racial equality and human dignity should sympathize with the rioters, not with the effete bigots on the Seine. ~Ralph Peters, theOneRepublic

Mr. Peters is a long-standing apologist for hegemony and its evils, and he is also one of the most fervent, bitter, nasty Francophobes of the last century. As such, he represents the marriage of the worst anti-American (as the term should truly be understood) instincts and some of the most bilious hatred floating around in supposedly “mainstream” writing today. He shows us, in pure form, the neocon Schadenfreude at seeing France implode thanks to immigration policies identical to those the neocons insist that we in America continue to endure. I suspect that the rioting Muslims in France today have more respect for the French than Mr. Peters, so anything he has to say about France would be worthless, except that it reveals the moral insanity of our own brand of “effete bigots.”

Peters is the author of New Glory, the latest in a long line of his idiotic, angry screeds (Publisher’s Weekly called it “lively but rarely incisive”) urging on the domination of the world and the defeat of France. His statements about the “oppression” of immigrants in France, contrasted with the boundless opportunity supposedly available to them here, are simply ideological. The underclass created by mass illegal immigration in this country is even more fully excluded from American society and more rigorously exploited than any Muslim in France. This is not to demonise America or vindicate France, as both are guilty of reckless, suicidal immigration policies that will have equally pernicious results, but it is to remember that we are on the same foolish course that the French have taken. Our country and population are larger, and our economy is slightly more dynamic, but the time will come when those advantages will be exhausted by the strains mass immigration is imposing on us.

What is different between here and there at the moment is that France’s immigrants are predominantly Muslim. They have been steeped not only in their intrinsically violent religion, which provides ready-made justification for any act of violence committed for the sake of “justice” or for the Islamic community and the Prophet, but also in a modern Muslim identity shaped by erstwhile resistance movements in the Near East. Heirs to a culture with no meaningful public political discourse, their instinctive response to grievance, real or imagined, is the street violence a la Palestine that they have valorised (and which the leftist buffoons in Europe have likewise valorised).

Gallic “bigotry” has not created this enemy, but it is assuredly an enemy of France and of the West. Perhaps if there had been sufficient prejudice, and an attendant instinct for self-preservation, on the part of Frenchmen in decades past, there would not now be a sizeable fraction of the population that is fundamentally alien and hostile to the rest of the country. Profoundly “racist” nations do not allow masses of foreigners into their countries–but they may become deeply prejudiced and hateful of those foreigners as a result of having let them in without considering what it would mean. It is the French indifference to their own heritage and the foolish welcome to unassimilable newcomers that have made such a conflict possible.

But in Virginia, the focus on Kaine’s anti-death-penalty stance led to discussion of his deep Catholic faith - a rare recent instance of a Democrat who seemed to beat his Republican opponent on the faith question. Kilgore, a religious conservative, seemed reluctant to make faith a strong part of his message. ~The Christian Science Monitor

Expect to see a lot of (probably mindless) chatter about Governor-Elect Kaine’s faith and religious convictions in connection with two themes that are media favourites in recent years: 1) the election will be spun as ‘proof’ that the GOP does not have the monopoly on the religious vote (or at least not on effective religious rhetoric) and that Democrats have a chance to “retake” the so-called “faith issue” and 2) it will be taken as ‘proof’ that even “red state” Virginians are possibly moving away from the death penalty. Neither of these will be true, but this is not what interests me today.

What is noteworthy is that Kaine took the Jack Kennedy/John Roberts route concerning his Catholicism, affirming that his supposedly central and all-important faith will have no real effect on how he carries out his duties. This is the “I just happen to be [fill in the blank]” excuse, which is a rhetorical dodge that devalues the religious identity in question. This attitude is strange–Kaine claims that his faith compels him to believe that capital punishment is unjust and wrong, but also claims that it does not compel him to act upon this conviction? He can be sanguine about overseeing executions that he regards as a violation of the dignity of man and as a sin against God? How does this work?
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In a blow to President George Bush and his Republican Party, the Democrats have won two elections for state governors, with most observers saying the victories mean Republican majorities in both houses of Congress could be under threat in next year’s mid-term elections.

In Virginia, a traditionally strong Republican state which Mr Bush won by a margin of almost 10 per cent last November, the Lieutenant Governor, Tim Kaine, scored a comfortable victory over the former Republican attorney-general, Jerry Kilgore.

And in New Jersey, which traditionally provides close contests, a Democrat senator, Jon Corzine, scored a resounding victory over his Republican opponent, Douglas Forrester, after a campaign characterised by bitter personal attacks and a combined spending spree of a record $70 million ($95 million) by the two multi-millionaire candidates.

But it was the result in Virginia where Mr Bush’s record low approval ratings - about 38 per cent according to recent polls - that seemed to have the greatest impact. ~The Sydney Morning Herald

Everyone talks about energy independence as if our future depends on it. Simultaneously, we are told that globalization is good for us in every other respect. But why is energy independence any better than manufacturing independence, or engineering independence, or innovation independence? U.S. imports of industrial supplies, capital goods, automotive vehicles and consumer goods all exceed U.S. oil imports.

In recent years, offshore outsourcing has caused the U.S. trade deficit to explode. Offshore outsourcing means that the production of goods and services for the U.S. market is shifted from America to foreign countries. This turns goods formerly produced in the United States into imports. Between 1997 and 2004, the U.S. trade deficit increased six-fold. Since 1997, the cumulative U.S. trade deficit (including the $700 billion estimate for 2005) is $3.5 trillion. The outsourcing of America’s economy is a far greater threat to Americans than terrorists.

During the 1980s, economists spoke in doom and gloom terms about the “Reagan deficits.” The cumulative U.S. trade deficit for the entire decade of the 1980s totaled $846 billion. The U.S. trade deficit for 2005 alone is 83 percent of the cumulative deficit of the Reagan 1980s. Yet, we hear very little doom and gloom. Economists now declare the trade deficit to be good for us. They mistakenly describe the trade deficit as a mere reflection of the beneficial workings of free trade. Economists have become mouthpieces for the corporate interests who benefit by deserting their American workforce and replacing them with foreigners. ~Paul Craig Roberts

The extraordinary 12-day state of emergency, which went into effect Tuesday at midnight, covered Paris, its suburbs and more than 30 other French cities from the Mediterranean to the border with Germany and to Rouen in the north– an indication of how widespread arson, riots and other unrest have become in nearly two weeks of violence.

The emergency decree invoked a 50-year-old security law that dates to France’s colonial war in Algeria. It empowers officials to put troublemakers under house arrest, ban or limit the movement of people and vehicles, confiscate weapons and close public spaces where gangs gather. It also paved the way for curfews in areas where officials feel they are needed.

Seventy-three percent of respondents in a poll published Wednesday in daily Le Parisien said they agreed with the curfew.

The unrest started Oct. 27 as a localized riot in a northeast Paris suburb angry over the accidental deaths of two teenagers, of Mauritanian and Tunisian descent, who were electrocuted while hiding from police in a power substation. ~The Chicago Sun-Times

[Prime Minister] de Villepin was cheered by his Centre-Right colleagues and jeered by many on the Left in the National Assembly yesterday when he explained the imposition of the curfew law.

“The Republic is at a moment of truth,” he said. “What is being questioned is the effectiveness of our integration model.” ~The Australian

Perhaps M. de Villepin should return to foreign policy, writing poetry and waxing nostalgic about Napoleon, as his judgement about the premiere political problem of his time at home is completely unsound. What is being questioned is not the “effectiveness” of an “integration model.” What a perfect Ecole elitist thing to say. It is that sort of thinking, and these sorts of governors, over the last 40 years that has produced the miserable, imploding France of today. What is happening is not a “questioning” of anything, but an assault, a rebellion, an act of contempt towards a stupidly open and vulnerable society that has not the most basic instinct to preserve itself. To borrow the foolish, vogue Popperian term, the worst enemy of the “open society” is the so-called “open society” itself.

The “integration model” failed. It failed as soon as it began, and not only because the new Muslim Maghrebi populations in France wanted no part of integration. It failed because there was no real attempt at integration, and because there was nothing into which anyone could be integrated. Rather, there was nothing into which anyone with his own sense of identity would suffer to be integrated. What does the Fifth Republic mean to an Arab from North Africa? How bereft of meaningful symbols and ideas does a people have to be that the only thing they can invoke with any conviction is “the Republic”? As the presidential elections of 2002 revealed, Frenchmen feel no attachment to or great enthusiasm for “the Republic,” and indeed the only thing that could garner any enthusiasm in that contest was the conditioned hate response directed against some of the last few Frenchmen who are actually committed to the French nation. The French Republic is made up of the institutions staffed by the deracinated elites–it has little or nothing to do with the French people (and as of this month, it should be clear that the inhabitants of the banlieues are not part of the French people by their own admission and actions).

“Tolerance” and “equality” are the very things that bar all real cultural integration, and the effects of this indifference towards reproducing French culture in Muslims in France (which is not to say that it would have worked) are exacerbated by the reality that it scarcely means anything to be French. Such is the fate of a country where even its romantic nationalists, such as Villepin, now idealise a foreigner who ruined the nation and define that nation by the principles of the Revolution that succeeded to some extent in divorcing France from her past, or at least in making her past distasteful to the children of the Revolution.

Even feigned French self-confidence in their 20th century colonialist phase betrayed an internal crisis of identity. No sane nation pretends that a colony of aliens and infidels, such as Algeria, is truly a part of itself. (The tremendous wisdom of our ancestors not to make the mistake of annexing most of Mexico in 1848 has been repeatedly vindicated down through the years, even if many of us cannot appreciate it.) If Algeria had really been an integral part of France, the restoration of French rule in 1945 would not have been the ugly, brutal affair that it was. The delusion that Algeria was an integral part of France, which made the Algerian Revolution so much more meaningful to French nationalists than their other failed colonial wars, has now given way to a new delusion. This is the delusion that the same imaginary convivience that failed 50 years ago will somehow magically succeed when l’Algerie is moved to France proper. But in transporting l’Algerie to France there may eventually come new versions of the Battle of Algiers across the country. The riots over the past two weeks have occasionally been termed a French intifada, and they have the potential to become much worse than that.

France cannot readily fall back on her historic Catholicism for her identity–the divorce from that tradition by left and right is essentially complete and has been for several generations. Even the rightist tradition of Action Francais, to which the Front National is heir, is fundamentally secular. Without a common religious culture, French identity, if the French decide to preserve it, will probably be defined increasingly in terms of ethnicity and race. A sense of shared history would be important in defining this identity, but French historiography is and has been so dominated and controlled by the narrative of the Revolution serving as the national self-definition and Marxist interpretations of that narrative that this will be very slow to change. What the French must not do, but what their elites probably will do, is to fall back on abstractions and propositions and attempt to solve irreconcilable cultural alienation through ideological posturing and a superficial civic identity based in political ideals. This ideology does not even satisfy the “Gaulois,” so why would it be compelling for people who come from an entirely alien civilisation and tradition?

In fact, the non-Muslims of France are now experiencing what some of their ancestors endured in the days before Charles Martel beat the Muslims back into Spain. Do not expect French politicians (apart from the “extreme right”) to use such language. Interior Minister Sarkozy, after describing the rioters as scum, now declares his government’s eagerness to promote civil rights. France, like the countries of North America and Western Europe, is a leftist country, where so-called conservatives talk only of free markets, equality, and economic growth. Only a fascist beast like Jean-Marie Le Pen or Charles de Gaulle would waste time talking about the French nation. Nations, in the eyes of liberals—whether of the Marxist or libertarian stripe (not much difference, actually), are an optical illusion. There is no forest, only trees, and if an entire forest of trees were to disappear while they were not looking, then nothing would happen unless they happened to have an investment—political in the case of Marxists, financial in the case of libertarians—in the place.

To make things worse, the Arab youths, as victims of discrimination, are behaving exactly as leftists think they ought to behave. Imagine you are a French intellectual approaching 60, forever dwelling on the glory days of the student riots in which you and your pals burned cars in 1968. Isn’t this the same scenario? Dispossessed people struggling for freedom and dignity?

In a sense, yes. The riots of ‘68 and ’05 are both outbursts of hooliganism that need to be repressed by the most violent means at the French government’s disposal, but there is a difference. The Marxist students believed in the political violence for the sake of revolution; the Islamic youths believe in violence against infidels for its own sake, as a divinely sanctioned method of dealing with pigs and cattle. I have not talked to Jean Raspail in years, but these riots are, in miniature, the unfolding of his scenario in Camp of the Saints: violent and licentious Third-Worlders whose attacks meet with no resistance from the demoralized self-hating West.

At the heart of the problem is not the teachings of a wicked and stupid religion but the stupid leftism—in both Marxist and classical liberal forms. If you do not believe that there is such a thing as societies or nations, that only contract-making individuals matters, then you will not object when your country is flooded with immigrants who bring an alien and hostile religion. Religion is all bunk, after all, so what difference can a few million Muslims make?

Large nation states, it is true, are the constructs of post-Medieval (dare I say post-Christian?) man, and it is more wholesome to feel a deeper allegiance to Brittany than to France, to South Carolina than to the United States. Nonetheless, in the world in which we find ourselves, nation-states are one of the last bulwarks against a globalism that is bent on destroying all distinctions between man and man (to say nothing of man and woman and man and beast). The result will be a world in which there is no place for us, either as Christians or as people of the West, and there is small consolation in the fact that the liberal-libertarians, whose moral, social, and cultural anarchy got this ball rolling, will be among the first to be eliminated. ~Thomas Fleming

Which brings us to the root cause of the problem and the issue politicians dare not discuss — our reluctance to have enough children to stabilise the population naturally. In the rich countries of the world people have never had it so good, and they have never had so few babies This is the paradox behind population decline. As we in the West become more comfortable, the basic human urge to reproduce, which has survived famine, pestilence and war, is faltering in the face of peace and prosperity. ~Richard Ehrman, The Spectator (registration required)

“There were some present at that very time who told Him of the Galilaeans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And He answered then, ‘Do you think that these Galilaeans were worse sinners than all the other Galilaeans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwell in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13.1-5).

This Gospel tells us three things. First, those who suffer in disasters such as the recent South Asian tsunami are not necessarily worse people than those who escape them. Secondly, however, such disasters do come upon those who do not repent of their sins; they are the instruments of God’s wrath against sinners. And so, thirdly, we who remain among the living must fear lest we perish like they did because of our sins.

The western press, both atheist and Christian, will have none of this. God does not cause disasters like this, says the atheist: rather, the very presence of such disasters is proof that God does not exist. For if He did exist, and was able to stop them but did not, this proves that He is immoral. And if He was not able to stop them, this proves that He is impotent, or at any rate not omnipotent. But since religion says that God is both moral and omnipotent, this proves that God does not exist.

The arguments of Christian leaders to defend their faith against such attacks have been feeble in the extreme. Or rather, they have joined the atheists in attacking it. Thus the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, shocked British listeners by declaring: “Every single random, accidental death is something that should upset a faith bound up with comfort and ready answers. Faced with the paralysing magnitude of a disaster like this, we naturally feel more deeply outraged.”

But there are no “random, accidental” deaths, and Orthodox Christian piety most definitely does not feel “outrage” before the judgements of God, but only reverence: “The judgements of God are a great abyss…” ~Dr. Vladimir Moss

One has only to go into a church of one of the modernist Orthodox jurisdictions in this country to see some of the results of this worldly spirit: pews, often organs, streamlined and sometimes dramatized services, various modern gimmicks for making money; and very often the chief emphasis is placed on ethnic rather than spiritual values — including the newest ethnic emphasis, Americanism.

The churches of our Russian Church Outside of Russia are usually quite different, with no pews or organs, and a more old-worldly kind of piety; and there has been a noticeable revival of traditional church iconography and other church arts. The traditional Orthodox influence is visible even in such external things as the way our clergy dress and the beards which almost all of our clergy have. Just a few decades ago almost no Orthodox clergy in America had beards or wore ryassas on the street; and while this is something outward, it is still a reflection of a traditional mentality which has had many inward, spiritual results also. A few of the more conservative priests in other jurisdictions have now begun to return to more traditional Orthodox ways, but if so, it is largely under the influence of our Church, and a number of these priests have told us that they look to our Russian Church Outside of Russia as a standard and inspiration of genuine Orthodoxy. However, the object of this talk is to go a little deeper than these externals and to see where our Orthodoxy is today in America, and especially what we ourselves can do to make ourselves more fervent, more Orthodox, more in the spirit of St. Herman, who for all time has set the “tone” for Orthodoxy in America.

To do this, we must first of all recognize the chief enemy facing us: it is, of course, the devil, who wants to knock us off the path of salvation; and the chief means he uses in our times to do this is the spirit of worldliness. This is what has weakened and watered down Orthodoxy in America — and not just in the other jurisdictions. The spirit of worldliness is in the air we breathe, and we cannot escape it. You cannot watch television, you cannot go to a supermarket, you cannot walk in the streets of any city in America — without being bombarded by this spirit. In supermarkets and other large stores they even play lighthearted, senseless music in order to catch you in this spirit and make sure that you don’t think or feel in an otherworldly way. Our Church and everyone in it is attacked by this spirit, and we can’t escape it by isolating ourselves in a ghetto or in a small town; the outside influences can be lessened, perhaps, in such ways, but if we are not fighting an inward spiritual battle against worldliness, we will still be conquered by it without fail.

And so the chief question regarding the future of our Orthodoxy in America — and in the whole world, for that matter — is: how do we remain orthodox and develop our orthodoxy against the spirit of worldliness that attacks us on all sides? In order to answer this question we have to ask first another question that might be a little surprising: what is Orthodoxy? But this question is basic; if we aren’t sure just what Orthodoxy is, we won’t know what we’re trying to preserve and develop against the spirit of worldliness. ~Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) of Platina , Dec. 12/25 1979 at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, N.Y.

Though offered 26 years ago, Fr. Seraphim’s observations and exhortations are just as meaningful and important today.

This case, like almost everything in Washington, has been driven by politics – not truth, justice, or the Constitution. It’s about seeking political power, pure and simple, not unlike the impeachment process during the last administration.

There are much more serious charges of lying and cover-ups that deserve congressional attention. The country now knows the decision to go to war in Iraq was based on information that was not factual. Congress and the people of this country were misled. Because of this, more than 2,000 U. S. troops and many innocent people have died. Tens of thousands have been severely wounded, their lives forever changed if not totally ruined.

The lies Scooter Libby may or may not have told deserve a thorough investigation. But in the scheme of things, the indictment about questions regarding the release of Valerie Plame’s name, a political dirty trick, is minor compared to the disinformation about weapons of mass destruction and other events that propelled us into an unnecessary war. Its costs – in life, suffering, and money – have proven to be prohibitive.

The Libby indictment, unless it opens the door to more profound questions concerning why we went to war, may serve only as a distraction from much more serious events and lies. ~Rep. Ron Paul

Unfortunately, I think Rep. Paul’s last remark is the most insightful of all. Now that Libby has taken the fall and given the lazy, incompetent journalistic establishment a scandal it can obsess about for a while, some of the pressure will be off the White House. It takes eyes of the media and public (if they are even paying attention) off the ongoing disaster in Iraq. Only to the extent that it reminds the public that the administration is rife with liars and con-men will Libby’s trial inspire any desire for accountability from this administration.

Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff to vice president Richard B. Cheney and assistant to the president, has been indicted for a cover-up.

As U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald made clear at the Oct. 28 press conference announcing Libby’s indictment, he believes Libby “went before a federal grand jury and lied under oath repeatedly and fabricated a story about how he learned this information, how he passed it on.” By obstructing Fitzgerald’s investigation, Libby has prevented Fitzgerald and the grand jury from finding out who leaked the name of the covert CIA agent, Valerie Plame, and why.

Libby did not lie, commit perjury and obstruct justice for no reason. As Fitzgerald made clear, these are serious crimes. For a high government official to commit such crimes, the crime being covered up must be very serious indeed. ~Paul Craig Roberts

To be exact, Fitzgerald, using a baseball analogy, said he could not indict Libby for outing Plame because he could not know for certain Libby deliberately revealed her identity, due to all the sand Libby threw in his eyes – i.e., all the lies he told. Thus, no one was indicted for the crime Fitzgerald had been appointed to investigate.

After 22 months, Pat Fitzgerald came in with a Martha Stewart indictment, though Libby, staring at years in prison for serial lying about something more serious than a stock transaction, may reject the simile.

This indictment is not about the war … People who believe fervently in the war effort, people who oppose it, people who have mixed feelings about it, should not look at this indictment for any resolution of how they feel or any vindication of how they feel. ~Pat Buchanan

These views of the Valerie Plame investigation are striking in how different they are, given that they are written by two men who are essentially in principled agreement on all major questions of public policy and who share, whether or not they regularly embrace the label, a common paleoconservative persuasion. I suppose we can take some pride in the knowledge that our common philosophical convictions need not, indeed should not, result in predictable, uniform attitudes across the board. It is nonetheless a little puzzling how Libby’s indictment and the entire Valerie Plame business can inspire such divergent responses. Both views can’t be right, can they? Well, both are right, but not entirely and not about the same things.
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The northern industrial suburbs of Paris suffered the worst of eight consecutive nights of rioting on November 3-4. Disorder has now spread to dozens of provincial towns, including Dijon, the first city outside Ile-de-France (the metropolitan region) to be affected by unrest. Hundreds of cars, as well as schools, stores, and warehouses have been torched or ransacked. A disabled French woman, unable to escape from a bus set alight by the rioters in Sevran (Dept. Seine-Saint-Denis), was badly burned. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy noted “a great coordination” among rioters, hinting that the unrest was far from spontaneous.

The rioters are mainly young, French-born North African males. Last week in the Parisian banlieu of Clichy-sous-Bois—a concrete and steel high-rise monstrosity that is now over 80 percent Muslim—they rose in anger when two teenagers were accidentally electrocuted while hiding from the police in a fenced-off area housing a high-voltage pylon. Shouting “Allahu akbar!” groups of youths armed with clubs and sticks went on a rampage forcing the regular police to retreat. When the riot police came in force to reclaim the area, the protests became focused on the demand that the French police get out of the “occupied territories.” The trouble would be ended, various Muslim “community leaders” claimed, if the French authorities accepted that there were de facto no-go areas within the country which should be self-administered. “All we demand is to be left alone,” said Mouloud Dahmani, one of the local “emirs” engaged in negotiations to persuade the French to withdraw the police and allow a committee of sheiks, mostly from the Muslim Brotherhood, to negotiate an end to the hostilities.

The demand is not new and it will be made with increasing frequency in the years to come. Many Muslims in France and elsewhere in Europe already consider themselves de facto autonomous, a community justifiably opposed to the broader society of infidels and centered on mosques and Islamic centers. The emergence of a huge diaspora of the faithful away from the heartland is seen by pious Muslims as an event archetypically linked to conquest. The demand for the predominantly Muslim areas to be granted communal self-rule will inevitably lead to the clamoring for the sharia law in a segregated Muslim France.

Assimilation is no longer a viable option in France, the country that used to pride itself on its ability to turn foreigners into Frenchmen. That was possible with the Italians, Spaniards, Poles and Russians becauyse they were culturally assimilable and because they came in tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands even (e.g., the non-French Pieds-Noirs), but not in the millions. The Muslims now account for ten percent of France’s population and for more than one-fifth of all newborns. They live in compact communities in which it is no longer possible to buy wine in a local store or to see Amelie in a cinema. Their leaders regard their faith and culture as superior to that of the host society. Those who have doubts wisely keep quiet. ~Srdja Trifkovic

In fact, the sundering had taken place centuries earlier and has its source already in the patristic period, as soon as the notion of “sacraments” emerged, as soon as theologians formed the notion that “sacraments” were magically and ontologically different from other signs, and as soon as they came to believe that the Church’s meal was a supernatural meal and the Church’s wafer was supernatural wafer. ~Peter Leithart, Against Christianity

This chapter of Leithart’s series of reflections is by far the weakest of the three I have looked at so far. Most of the chapter is dedicated to the rather obvious idea that the question of whether the Eucharist is symbol or reality is a meaningless and false question. Of course it is. Only Protestants, if I may be so blunt, would raise such a question in the first place, because it is their deficient understanding of what a symbol is that created this imaginary dichotomy in the first place. In the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy attributed to St. Dionysios, we are presented with a series of liturgical symbols that represent and make manifest the divine and intelligible realities to which they refer. A symbol is a manifestation, a proof of reality, not a cipher in place of it.

Another weakness, perhaps unavoidable given the impressionistic nature of the book, is the complete inconsistency in abjuring sacraments but endorsing ritual and liturgical theology. As a favourite writer of mine might say: Huh? It is as if Leithart could not make up his mind. If liturgical theology is vital to repudiating the privatised religion that Leithart terms Christianity, it is rather hard to avoid sacraments, or mysteries, if he would prefer to use the older, more flexible Greek term. In fact, but for the celebration of the Eucharist as a manifestation of Christ in our midst there would be very little purpose for the Liturgy beyond the commemorative. Commemoration is perfectly good, but liturgical life is participation in the Life of God, not simply reenacting a story.

Without the Eucharist, and without it having special significance, there might be some nice Gospel and Psalm reading and some singing, but it would lose all of its meaning as the congregation of the people of God in real communion. It is the ontological reality of communion, initiated in baptism and confirmed and strengthened in the Eucharist as well as by the other mysteries of the Church, that matters. It is self-evident that taking the bread and wine cannot accomplish this in anything more than a metaphorical way if the Eucharist is not “supernatural,” which is to say if Christ is not truly present in the elements through their miraculous transformation. Ritual practice in itself, however desirable or valuable, obviously cannot accomplish this. These are not simply rituals designed for our edification to live life “as it was meant to be lived,” as Leithart claims, but to effect gradually our perfection and the recovery of the likeness of God that we have lost in our fallen state.

If we are to complain about sacraments being “magically and ontologically different,” we might as well complain about Scripture being “magically” different from any other written works. There are fairly obvious reasons why some things are considered sacred and others profane, and why some symbols are higher in a hierarchy of symbols than others. Any system of symbols, to speak in terms of cultural hermeneutics for a moment, works because the symbols are interrelated and refer to one another. Some are more significant than others, just as some words are more meaningful than others, yet as part of the structure or grammar each symbol or word has its appropriate function. It isn’t magic, of course, but God’s revelation and activity that gives these acts their greater significance. The Word is present in both sacraments and the written Word, and His presence makes all the difference. They are distinct from and ‘higher’ than the rest of creation because God does not give the rest of creation the power to transfigure men. Specific sacramental rituals do not imply that the world is deprived of sacrality: God has redeemed all of creation, and all of creation praises the Lord.

The weakness of Leithart’s chapter on sacraments is the weakness of someone completely ensnared in Protestantism’s historically very weak sacramental theology but desperate to escape the logical consequences of the atomising, privatising tendencies that he finds so troubling in the departure from ritual. Leithart wants to affirm liturgical theology and ritual, but he is not nearly so concerned to affirm the traditional meaning given to that theology and ritual.

He somehow imagines that marking off the mysteries from other signs and rituals isolates the Church and leads to what he calls Christianity, but it is basic to any Orthodox understanding of the mysteries that we truly become and are sustained as members of Christ’s own Body through these mysteries, we participate in the One Who is Life and Resurrection and through the Church we are joined to all those who have put on Christ in the new creation of the Eighth Day. The mysteries initiate us into a communion broader and more expansive than any that might be accomplished by common ritual practices, and are distinguished from other rituals and their participation is regulated by the canons for the sake of embracing and incorporating all men in Christ.

Thanks to the recommendation of Jon Luker of Retrospect, I have started reading Peter Leithart’s Against Christianity and have a few early comments at the outset. It is my goal for the next few weeks to compose a more complete response to each of Leithart’s five chapters, as I anticipate that each one will be very interesting in different ways. Though I have a generally very favourable impression of the thesis of the book, to the extent that the “bricolage” modeled partly on Notes From the Underground and partly on Pascal’s Pensees has a thesis, my early remarks will focus on the two sections where I always anticipated the greatest disagreement with Leithart, namely those on theology and sacraments. Before I start with that, I would just note that what he is calling Christianity, mainly a disembodied spectre of privatised Biblical reading, does not deserve the name and so in this sense he has done the Faith a disservice by abandoning the term Christianity to those who do not understand the Faith.

Leithart’s conception of theology explains why he reacts so negatively against it. For him, theology is concerned with “timeless truths” that are somehow divorced from life. Naturally, any sensible Christian would want nothing to do with any such theology, and it is unfortunate that Leithart is correct that the study of theology today, to the extent that it is concerned with any kind of truth (which is itself questionable in some cases), fits his description. In other words, Leithart despises academic theology. No complaints there–academic theologians may or may not be good scholars, but virtually none of them is teaching the Gospel in a way that does not contribute to the privatising, intellectualising sort of Biblical religion that Leithart has condemned under the name Christianity. But they are not doing theology. They are engaged in a travesty of theology.

Most of the writers whom these academics are studying (or pretending to study) were doing something very different. They were interpreting Scripture in the light of the historical experience and Tradition of the Church–they were explaining the eternal truths of revelation as part of living out the life in Christ–and some of the most important productions of many Fathers are their commentaries on the Gospels, the Psalms and other books of the Bible. St. Cyprian formulated an ecclesiological theory, which is to say a vision of the way the Church should be, in response to the immediate pastoral needs of the African church–such theology is practical and meaningful and necessary. If modern people have corrupted the meaning of the word, it is incumbent on those who see the damage they have wrought to take back a venerable and good term and restore it to its proper meaning.

For the Orthodox, true theology is prayer, and we learn to pray from Scripture and from liturgical practise where we encounter Scripture first of all as a body of the faithful. All genuine theological statements come from an interpretation of Scripture, prayer and experience of the life of the Church liturgically.

Why does St. Cyril insist on the title Theotokos for the Virgin Mary? Because he must affirm the scriptural revelation and eucharistic reality that Christ is the Word become flesh: if the Word has become flesh, then we must find a way to say that the Virgin Mary gave birth to the Word in the flesh. If we partake of Christ’s flesh, and we are also said to be partakers of the divine nature, how else do we understand the transformative power of the Eucharist except by working out how Christ’s humanity was deified and thus made ours capable of being raised up to God in like manner?

The possibility of that divinisation, and so of our deliverance, rests on the reality that God the Word Himself was made flesh, and Theotokos expresses that truth in all its paradox and wonder. Moreover, before it was a theological definition, Theotokos was a term of devotion arising out of hymnography and popular piety. All the ontological arguments St. Cyril makes are not made for the sake of a particular set of assumptions about ontology or for the sake of philosophy, but for the sake of guarding the truth of the Incarnation and the promise of salvation.

If theology has become a sterile, marginal or otherwise dreadful pursuit, this is a function of the marginalisation and privatisation of the Faith. Clearly, Leithart loathes Stanley Hauerwas and the like, and I can only congratulate him for this, but Hauerwas and all the bad “theologians” before him should not be allowed to drag the good name of theology into the mud. Real theology, such as that practised by St. Gregory the Theologian and the other Fathers of the Church, cannot be divorced from life because the life of the Church is the source and the ground of any theological statement of any worth.
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One woman wrote that motherhood just doesn’t fit her self-image or her schedule. “I compete in triathlons; my husband practices martial arts; we both have fulfilling careers; we travel the world . . . we enjoy family and friends; we have a fun, intimate relationship.” Another woman asked: “What would the return be on the investment? Are there any laws that would require my children to pay for my nursing home when I am old? Are they going to be a sufficient hedge against poverty and loneliness?” ~R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Touchstone

The attitude of these women is very simply a form of spiritual and moral insanity. It is here, when all of the self-centered hobbies and “lifestyle choices” trump what God desires for men that they cease to be the harmless activities they might seem to be and become idolatrous and evil. The very language of cost-benefit analysis related to the rearing of children that the one woman uses, as if the children were commodities from which one extracted satisfaction or fixed deposits on which one draws in retirement, should shock many a complacent conservative into realising the social and moral degradation that follows upon thinking of man as homo oeconomicus.

That in turn might cause a reevaluation of the value of thinking about economics as if man were homo oeconomicus. If anyone wants an example of how a consumerist, state capitalist society twists and perverts human life, just consider that the rise of these childless married couples does not occur except in such a society. This is a social sickness, and this sickness is a major part of why our society is precipitously succumbing to the invasion of aliens, the abandonment of our traditions and the decadence of all forms of cultural expression. A people that worships the self, as these people do, has no sense of its own identity, as the cult of the self tells us that societies are simply made up of interchangeable units, ciphers whose ancestry and customs are irrelevant–what matters to the cult of the self is only what the individual wants, not what the person owes to his kin, his ancestors, his folk. A people that worships the self cannot create anything truly beautiful or meaningful, as beauty requires a measure of self-sacrifice and a yearning for the ultimate Other, and it cannot recognise anything beautiful enough in the creations of its forebearers that makes them worthy of emulation. As some natalists have pointed out before, the failure of a people to reproduce biologically is connected to a deeper failure or unwillingness of that people to reproduce their traditions.

It is not only that childless marriages are unnatural and contrary to the will of God in very obvious ways, which Dr. Mohler sets out very well elsewhere in his article, but that the very idea of marrying while not begetting children is a perverse, self-indulgent one that feeds all of the passions and thwarts the possibility of experiencing and expressing truly kenotic love. Marriage and parenthood are part of God’s design for very clear and definite reasons: they instruct us in how to give fully of oneself to other people in self-emptying love that follows the Word’s kenosis in becoming man for our salvation, they teach us that no person can be complete or perfected except in loving relationships with others, and thus they teach us in very simple ways the profound reality of communion.

Marriage is a mystery of the Church in part because it instructs us in the mystery of what the Church is and how She is bound to Christ in love. In this way, marriage leads us further on the path of salvation and teaches us how to be servants of Christ. The relationship of the Church and Christ is a type and example of perfect communion and unity, and it is that example we are meant to follow in our marriages. As proof of the love that makes such unity possible, children are the gifts given to the parents to seal their unity, and in this they are like the gifts Christ has bestowed upon His Church or they are like the faithful who are nurtured in the bosom of the Church. The birth of children in wedlock is a type of the fulfillment of the Lord’s prayer that we might be one even as He and His Father are One.

Besides the obvious psychological damage divorce inflicts on children, with all the social consequences attendant on that, in an existential way divorce is a repudiation of and spiritual assault on the children’s very existence. Voluntarily childless marriage is spiritually almost as good as divorce in some respects, as the couple’s conscious desire not to have children is a sort of repudiation of one another. It is a rejection at some level of the spiritual and moral unity to which they have been called in their marriage, an admission that their love is a sort of airy sentiment and not something that should be made concrete and enfleshed in another person, and it is an expression of a desire to use the other person simply as a means of satisfaction of the self. It is little wonder that the second woman quoted above would think of having children in terms of investment and return–this must be how she thinks of all relationships, as means of satisfying her desires. That is tragic, and it is also a mark of the demonic.

He has rallied Bolivia’s coca farmers against U.S.-led eradication efforts and helped lead anti-government protests by indigenous groups that have unseated two presidents in two years.

But opposition leader Evo Morales is now closing in on the office he has helped force others to flee.

Opinion polls show the leftist congressman holding a narrow lead in an upcoming presidential election. Scheduled for Dec 4, the election could be delayed due to political bickering over Congressional seats.

If elected, Morales would be Bolivia’s first Indian president and add South America’s poorest country to a regional political shift leftward that has seen leftist leaders rise to power in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Venezuela.

A Morales victory will also likely stir concern in Washington, which has brandished him an enemy in its anti-drug fight in Bolivia, the world’s No. 3 cocaine producer after Colombia and Peru.

“I think people are getting used to the idea that Evo could be our next president,” said insurance company worker Mario Perez in the capital, La Paz, underscoring how Morales’ popularity has slowly spread to middle classes.

The son of a highland peasant and a one-time coca farmer, Morales carries a message that is reverberating with Bolivia’s poor Indian majority: nationalizing the country’s gas industry and challenging Bolivia’s free-market economic policies. He has also invoked racial imagery in urging Bolivians to choose their first indigenous president over European-descendants who have led the country for decades.

Bolivia has been hit by anti-globalization demonstrations in recent years. Popular revolts by indigenous and union groups demanding a bigger share of the country’s vast natural gas resources have toppled two presidents.

Morales — a self-confessed follower of Venezuela President Hugo Chavez — has appealed to that popular anger on the campaign trail, also vowing to legalize growing of coca — used to make cocaine — as part of what he calls the building of a “new country governed by the majority.” ~Reuters

Whether or not Evo Morales will be a disaster for Bolivia (my guess would be yes), there ought to be little reason for Washington to be unduly concerned about Morales’ increasingly likely election. His election would serve as a welcome opportunity to begin rethinking the effectiveness and political viability of American drug policies in Latin America and an occasion to withdraw at least one hegemonic tentacle from another country.

The government is undoubtedly embarrassed by the popular resistance to U.S. drug policies in Bolivia, as Washington continues to attack the problem of drug interdiction both there and in Colombia as if it were primarily a military operation. The so-called “drug war,” obnoxious and illegal in so many respects both here and abroad, seeks on one side to eliminate a supply of something that can be easily cultivated and for which there is both high, relatively inelastic demand and consequently there are also equally tremendous incentives to grow the plant.

Defoliating coca fields and ruining the livelihoods of otherwise inoffensive peasants are failed methods of eliminating the supply of cocaine, and they work on the same buffoonish assumption behind the so-called “fly-strip” approach to terrorists in Iraq, as if there were a fixed and finite number of opponents to kill. Without absolutely reducing demand in this country and significantly improving border security, narcotrafficking and all the social ills that attend drug abuse will continue to be largely insoluble problems.

Cold, hard economic realities, only intensified by neoliberal policies, make coca farming the most advantageous cash crop for poor South American farmers to grow, and efforts to eliminate the growing of coca has tended to have the effect of alienating broad sections of the population in Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia from both drug interdiction efforts and the U.S.-allied governments that support them. This alienation has helped fuel the success of FARC in Colombia, thus directly contributing to the power of narcotrafficking cartels and strengthening their ties to terrorist groups, and it could in time do the same in other South American countries.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush can meditate on the real-world consequences of democracy in nations that either have been, or believe that they have been, exploited or abused by the United States. It will not result in governments friendly to the United States, and it will assuredly not result in peace.

Hannah may now, therefore, find himself the new point man for the neo-conservatives in the Bush administration, replacing not only Libby but former Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, who were the driving forces at the Pentagon not only for the war with Iraq but the now almost universally criticized and discredited occupation policies that failed to anticipate, avert or defeat the still spreading Sunni guerrilla insurgency there.

It has yet to be seen, however, if Hannah, for all his personal and policy identification with Libby, will be able to replicate his former boss’s driving determination to push his and Cheney’s policies through.

National Security Adviser Steve Hadley is widely acknowledged by administration insiders not to be a strong personality. And he has had far less of an impact on the NSC than his former boss, current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He certainly does not enjoy the same high standing as she did in President Bush’s eyes.

Rice repeatedly was able to block policies urged by Secretary of State Colin Powell, throwing her weight more often than not behind Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. It is hard to imagine Hadley ever being able to play that role against Rice.

However, Hadley has had another important and un-remarked upon function in the current corridors of power. By occupying the top spot at the NSC, he diverts public attention from his long-controversial but energetic and dynamic deputy Elliot Abrams.

Abrams remains a driving, even dominant force, in Bush administration decision-making and continues to enjoy the full confidence of the president, the vice president, Rice and Rumsfeld. And after all the upheavals, personnel departures and unpleasant policy surprises of the past year, that quartet remains the key inner circle of the administration with both the power and the determination to make foreign and national security policies firmly concentrated in their hands. ~Martin Sieff, UPI

On June 26, 2002, the INC wrote a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee staff identifying Hannah as the White House recipient of information gathered by the group through a U.S.-funded effort called the Information Collection Program. Knight Ridder obtained a copy of the letter and previously reported on it.

The letter, written by Entifadh Qanbar, then the director of the INC’s Washington office, identified 108 articles in leading Western news media to which it said the INC had funneled the same information that it fed to Hannah, as well as a senior Pentagon official.

The information included a claim by an INC-supplied defector, Adnan Ihsan al-Haideri, that he had visited 20 secret nuclear, biological and chemical warfare facilities in Iraq.

Haideri’s claim first appeared in a Dec. 20, 2001, article in The New York Times and then in a White House background paper, “A Decade of Deception and Defiance,” released in conjunction with a Sept. 12, 2002, speech to the U.N. General Assembly by Bush.

Haideri, however, showed deception in a CIA-administered lie detector test three days before The New York Times article appeared, and was unable to identify a single illicit arms facility when he accompanied U.S. weapons inspectors to Iraq in January 2004, Knight Ridder reported in May of last year.

The White House background paper also cited INC-produced defectors’ claims that Saddam ran a terrorist training camp outside Baghdad in Salman Pak where Iraqi and non-Iraqi Islamic extremists were schooled in assassination, sabotage and the hijacking of aircraft and trains.

After the war, U.S. officials determined that a facility in Salman Pak was used to train Iraqi anti-terrorist commandos. ~Knight-Ridder

Addington has been a key player behind widely criticized U.S. policies that have led to torture and other abuse of detainees held in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to Tom Malinowski, Washington director of Human Rights Watch.

He reportedly helped draft an opinion by then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales stating that the Geneva Convention didn’t apply to some detainees in the war on terrorism.

“This was somebody who worked very hard to make sure the advice of senior military officials and national security professionals on the question of interrogation policies was ignored,” Malinowski said. “The result was an unmitigated disaster for the United States.” ~Knight-Ridder